Updated: October 12, 2021 09:46 PM
Created: October 12, 2021 08:49 PM
The more than 30 volunteers on the Cook County Search and Rescue team often have to do their job in less-than-ideal conditions. But a rescue Sunday afternoon was particularly treacherous.
The Cook County Sheriff's Office got a call at about 2:45 p.m. that someone on the trail to Eagle Mountain was having a medical emergency. Emergency responders arrived at the trailhead, which is north of Devil Track Lake, by about 3:30.
A group of about half a dozen went in first. The patient was more than 2 miles in on the trail. Beth Ambrosen was behind the first group, bringing food, water, and more lights.
"I didn't know about any weather statements," she said. "That was a surprise when we were on the trail."
They were notified that there were severe thunderstorms moving into the area with threats of high winds, hail, lightning, and even tornadoes.
"Just the threat of that activity had us hunkering down when it got too bad," Ambrosen said.
She sought shelter from golf ball-sized hail under a small tree.
"No. 1 on our training is to keep ourselves safe," she said. "So it was a bit of a dilemma. You know, you have to stop so you don't get injured. But you have someone relying on you to get them out to the ambulance. So time was a factor."
In the end, the rescue crew and patient were out of the woods by 7:30 p.m. An ambulance took the person rescued to St. Luke's. None of the responders were injured, just wet.
"We were all drenched head-to-toe," Ambrosen said. "I can't say enough for the guys that were doing the heavy lifting. It was about 2.5 miles of rocky terrain, so they earned my kudos. They don't get enough accolades for what they do."
Cook County Search and Rescue is all volunteer. Donations can go to the Cook County Sheriff's Office, and they always appreciate a simple thank you or the offer to cater a meal or help in some other way.
And Ambrosen hopes this situation was a reminder to others who enjoy heading into the woods, especially in transitional seasons.
"I can't say this enough for people going into the woods: Be prepared. Always have water, always have food. Have gear for those weather changes. You never know what's going to happen," she said. "Be a Boy Scout. Prepare for the worst."
Copyright 2021 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved