The seventh grade southwest trip turned into a harrowing experience for 13-year-old Dustin Hoy in its final few days. According to teacher Fred Yerzy, on the fourth day of the adventure, the group completed a difficult hike into the Grand Canyon. They ate dinner at the Cameron Trading Post and Dustin complained that he wasn’t feeling well and vomited.
Dustin’s parents, Valerie, who is a registered nurse, and Don Hoy, were contacted and after discussion between them and the supervising adults on the trip, it was decided to cancel his tour activities for the next day and wait to see if he felt better.
Yerzy reported that Dustin had bed rest on the next day, Friday, but there was no real change in his condition except he had a slight temperature. Again, his parents were contacted, his fever later subsided but he had a few more episodes of being sick. Teachers Rachel Torres and Yerzy monitored him throughout the evening, checking his temperature, giving him fluids and whatever sounded good to eat. Early the next morning, on Saturday, the final day of the trip, Yerzy woke Dustin and asked how he was feeling. It was then that the young teen pointed to his lower right abdomen and said it hurt, noting that it was a continuous pain.
“I thought, ‘this has got to be something else,’” Yerzy said.
He then called the boy’s family physician and filled him in on Dustin’s condition. Yerzy recalled that the doctor had him put his cell phone on speaker next to Dustin and instructed him how to press gently on Dustin’s abdomen and then to do a “rebound” test below the belly button. Yerzy said that at that point Dustin gave a painful yell and the doctor said to get him to a hospital “now.”
Yerzy said they quickly took Dustin to the small, local county hospital in Kanab, Utah. However, it offered only limited medical care and Dustin needed to be transferred. Torres and three other adults had helped see to Dustin’s health and safety, but Yerzy stayed behind while the group made their way on the final leg of the trip to Zion and a hike to the Emerald Pools in Utah.
As it turned out, Dustin had suffered a ruptured appendix, which then caused peritonitis.
“(Yerzy) rode with Dustin for the two-hour ambulance ride and waited in the hospital for his emergency appendectomy while my wife and I flew to Nevada and rented a car to Utah,” Mr. Hoy reported. “…I know that once it became serious, Mr. Yerzy never left his side… and waited hours until we arrived.”
Yerzy said that during the ambulance ride, Dustin had noticed him looking out the window and then apologized to Yerzy because he knew he was missing out on Zion. Yerzy reassured Dustin that Zion had been there for a really long time and would still be there for his next visit.
Dustin went into surgery around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. on Saturday.
“It was a little nerve wracking,” Yerzy admitted because Dustin was going into surgery and his parents had not yet arrived. “…I wanted to stay there…and make sure he knew we didn’t leave him there.”
The Hoys arrived at the Dixie Regional Medical Center just after Dustin’s surgery, while he was in recovery. Dustin was in the hospital from Saturday, April 30 and released on Saturday, May 7.
“Mr. Yerzy has my gratitude for the rest of my days,” Mr. Hoy said.
He also reported that Dustin is feeling better and his prognosis is excellent. He returned to school this week.
“Dustin told me that he was very comfortable with Mr. Yerzy and trusted him to do the right thing the whole time he was feeling poorly,” Mr. Hoy said, adding that Dustin also said the he was glad the whole, terrible experience was over.
Once Dustin’s parents arrived, Yerzy filled them in on his condition and then the tour company picked up Yerzy to take him to Las Vegas to try to catch his flight home. St. George is about two hours drive from Las Vegas and the group was knew that Yerzy was on his way, but running late.
Yerzy said that while he was en route, the group had boarded the plane and Torres and another adult on the trip had told a fellow passenger, who happened to be an airline pilot, about Yerzy’s situation and that they were trying to wait for him. Apparently, the off-duty pilot then went to the cockpit and pulled a few strings. The airplane ended up waiting 40 minutes and Yerzy was able to get onto the flight. Yerzy added that when he boarded no one said anything or even looked at him strangely.