…and then it all collapsed

My latest blog I wrote on October 9th. The next day I was going to start at the Icefiedls Parkway.
Nonetheless I didn’t get to post it until October 13th, still in Jasper. This blog is about what happened during the days in between.

Saturday night October 9th
I’ve just watched ‘Look who’s back‘. A comedy with a disturbing underlying society-critical touch about Hitler who, 70 years after his death, ‘wakes up’ in the Germany of 2014.
At 11 p.m. I pick up my laptop to finish my blog. All of a sudden my sight gets blurry, I feel dizzy and think I’m gonna faint even though I don’t understand why. Suddenly I ‘revive’ but everything seems to have lost its solid shape. The room is moving, mirrors itself, I see the floor, close up, light dark, it spins, when I close my eyes I’m home, when I open them I see a room lost in time and space.

Alarm bells are ringing in my head and I decide that I should find someone who can call for help. I remember where to find the door and stumble into the hallway of the apartment building. I knock on the first door, no-one answers. A man walks by and I see how my appearance scares him, I realise I’m on the floor. I knock on some more doors and finally someone answers. I try to explain what’s happening and sink back on the floor again. Suddenly a woman sits down next to me, takes my hand and calls 911..

We must have sat there for about half an hour. I try really hard to ‘stay conscious’, and not give in to the feeling that my head wants to go ‘black’. I shake my head to stay awake. I’m thirsty! All of a sudden my mouth feels incredibly dry and my tongue feels thick. But since I have no clue how I ended up in the situation (am I intoxicated?) I don’t want to drink anything before there’s medical help.

The ambulance
When, after a police officer, ‘finally’ the ambulance staff arrives they start off by testing my heartbeat, blood pressure and blood sugar level. Nothing alarming there.
We stumble down the stairs, into the night and into the ambulance.

The hospital
While I’m waiting on a stool in the hospital I see some people (nurses) consulting about me, at least that’s what I hope, something needs to happen. I see myself as I’m sitting there on that stool and how I do the things you see ‘crazy people’ do. I touch stuff and I look around me with a hazy eyes while I see everything with immense intensity. I see EVERYTHING! Not just a wall with some brochures, but:


I make sounds I can’t control and don’t look at all like the Hera I know.
And I’m aware of all that… but I can’t do anything about it.

The doctor
I’m put on a bed and told that the doctor will be with me soon. It takes to long for my likings and I feel secluded behing the curtain, so I stumble up and have a behind the curtain. I don’t want to be alone. I want to be ‘with the grown ups’ en see what’s happening. Luckily no-one pushes me to go back to the bed.
Not much later the doctor comes to see me and I have to tell the whole story of what happened again. I keep talking. My mouth says everything that I think or feel without my approval and when they install the drip I wail like a child. Finally I get to drink some water. The doctor says something about ‘dehydration’ and that he won’t be there this morning but he will be there again the next.

In a wheelchair they roll me to a different bed and soon after I drift off into a deep dreamless sleep (thank god).


Waking up
I wake up with a fierce headache and know immediately where I am. Apart from that everything is still hazy. I feel intoxicated, but the blood work proofs that that’s not the case. I’m not that scared anymore, probably the pills they gave me are to thank for that, but I don’t understand even the slightest bit of what happened. I act like a stranger, but I could tell my own phone number backwards in a split second and remember every bit of my itinerary of the last 4 months. In the corners of my eyers curtains are mountains, a bottle is a tower, until I focus on them and they turn back into their real shape. But also my humor is still there, I can make jokes. In the morning Shaun visits me, the cyclist with whom I would start riding the Icefields Parkway this morning. The only familiar face in Jasper. I feels good to hold his hand for a bit. I’m still there. He’s here, it’s real and it’s gonna be okay. ‘Will you take our picture?’ I ask him. Don’t ask why…


The day goes by in a whirl and because it’s ‘Thanksgiving’ there’s no care apart from the nurses.

Uit het vieze raam staren naar de prachtige bergen
From the dirty window I see the snow topped mountains
Op verkenning in het ziekenhuis met mijn gevonden gezelschap
Exploring the hospital with my new found company

In the morning Dr. Joseph is back. I’m ‘lucky’ to get to talk to the ‘tele-psychiatrist’ already in the morning through some kind of Skypecall. Later that day I get to talk live to a socialworker/therapist. This hospital is in the town of Jasper, within Jasper National Park, there are no specialists here.
That day I recover quite a lot and together we try to put the puzzle of what happened together to get to some kind of diagnosis.

Severe dehydration that led to hallucination and a severe panic attack.
In the cold weather of the past week I must’ve drunk to little water and to much coffee. Cold air dehydrates too, you pee but you don’t feel thirsty. Had I been 20 years older this degree of dehydration could’ve been catastrophic, dr. Joseph tells me.
Apart from that I know my own mind and that I’m vulnerable for dissociation.

Even in de frisse buitenlucht. Doet meteen goed.
Catching some fresh air instantly feels good.

Getting dismissed… quickly please..
During my second day in the hospital I feel more and more like myself again. Slow, tired, woolly, headache… but not as lost and hazy as I felt before. Apart from that, the financial catastrophic consequences of this situation were becoming clear.
‘Optimistic’ and maybe a little naive I thought it would be enough to be insured for 2x the Dutch health care rates. I though that’d be quite a bit and I would take on whatever bit would be left…
It turns out: a hospitable in Canada is about $4000 U.S. per night, while in Holland it’s more like $ 400. Add a ambulance ride at $ 400, E.R. visit at $ 580 and you start to understand why I was in a rush to get out of there. When dr. Joseph realised I would have to pay for most of this myself he said he wouldn’t charge me much for his work. That turned out to be $ 700 U.S. Later I understood that that is indeed unusually ‘cheap’.


It’s been six days now. My birthday that was exactly a week ago feels like a month ago.
Remember what I wrote?
I am exactly where I want to be, at this moment in my life, in this place! (…) When I imagine that picture I get the feeling that anything is possible. A wonderful feeling that gives me faith and courage to continue on, into the wide white world!
And while I was writing that everything collapsed.

I’m still in Jasper and I feel a little better every day. The worst headache is gone. My body still feels tired and my usually clear brain still sometimes rattles like an old bicycle. These last two nights I could feel my consciousness shifting again, just a little bit, but it scared the hell out of me now I’ve experienced how bad it can get.
I know I have to be patient, that’s how recovery works, but I can’t deny that it does scare me that I’m not back to my old self yet.

Frustrerend om vast te zitten in Jasper nu het net even mooi weer is.
Frustrating to be stuck in town while the weather is so nice
A first careful 14km ride today to Pyramid lake
A first careful 14km ride today to Pyramid lake

I hope to get back on the bike again within a few days from now and ride that Icefields Parkway at last.
A huge bite out of my travel budget, a dent in my self-confidence and a lesson learned:

DRINK WATER!!! Thirsty or not, hot or cold. DRINK!!!
…and make sure you have an extensive insurance..

So for now I’m stuck in one place for a bit and who knows, maybe I’ll have to take it slow for several weeks to come. Time will tell. The most important thing to me is to get my head back on my shoulders and to know I can rely on it so that I can continue my trip with the same pleasure and confidence I had before.


Setbacks are part of life and travel and I should be thankful to have gotten out of this in one piece.
Nonetheless, if you feel like supporting me a little in the continuation of my journey, there’s the possibility to, for instance, buy a set of postcards here. I still write letters too but there is a bit of a waitlist for those.
And also on the bottom of this page (on the website) you find a ‘donate’ button for a ‘cup of coffee’ (although I’m staying away from the literal coffee for a bit).

7 thoughts on “…and then it all collapsed”

  1. I wish you a fast recovery! Don’t make the mistake to cycle the way up to the glacier in one stage, because the last past is the steepest. There is a Campground without service at Jonas Creek (77 km) and 9 km later is a hostel. Allow yourself to leave the Icefields Parkway at Saskatchewan Crossing if you feel tired.

  2. Glad you are recovering. Hope it improves quickly. You’re lucky it didn’t happen in Alaska or the lower 48 because it’s probably double in the US. You could always try to claim refugee and get free.

  3. Chuck Easterly

    Hera – We met you at the “Santa Claus House” in North Pole Alaska in late August and we’ve been following your journey. We’re so sorry that you ended up in the hospital for a couple of days and we’re praying that you will be feeling 100% again very soon. It sounded like a very scary event. The icefields parkway is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited, so we hope you are on the road again soon and able to enjoy the beauty. Thank you for sharing your journey … even the rough spots.

  4. Rest up and get better soon Hera. Very good advice about drinking plenty although I’m probably as guilty as you of not doing so. I hope to hear plenty of good news next time you write.

  5. Donna Schibli

    Hera – that clearly was very scary for you especially being on your own. I’m glad you are on the mend, be careful and I hope the rest of your trip goes more smoothly. Take care!

  6. I hope my comments find you up and pedaling to another adventure again. I was so sad to hear your medical situation and pray you have made a FULL recovery. Some of my comments have not posted when using my mobile devices…. I’m sure it’s me!
    Reading and sharing your blog has been GREAT and well accepted. I hope your getting the support your need to keep the journey headed in the direction you desire. You ARE SO INSPIRATIONAL!!

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