Jungle adventure unforgettable
Wasps, tree spikes, and humidity took their toll on a local father of two.
Troy Landreville, Langley Advance
Published: Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Wasps dug their stingers into the exposed parts of Roy Chen-Campbell's flesh.
"These wasps don't just [sting] you once; they hit you like a dart," he recalled. "It felt like big rain drops falling on my head."
Pain seized his body, pulling an invisible shroud over his eyes. An hour-and-a-half after the attack, the 47-year-old father of two lay unconscious on a log in the Amazon jungle.
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Roy Chen-Campbell (right) and fellow Canadian Daryl Suen, from Prince George, waded across chest deep water during the Jungle Marathon in Brazil.
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Font:****The joyous feelings from days earlier, when he outfitted grateful Brazilian villagers with dozens of used running shoes - 90 per cent of which were donated by his running club from Peninsula Runners in Walnut Grove - seemed a lifetime ago.
Chen-Campbell related an expression: if you stay still in the Amazon jungle, the jungle will eat you. If the wasps or mosquitos won't get you, a swarm of other deadly creatures, from poisonous scorpions to big cats, more than likely will.
He was about two kilometres away from completing day two of the Jungle Marathon, a week-long extreme footrace in the state of Para, Brazil, when gripping a palm tree and, he disturbed a wasp nest about two and a half feet long by a foot wide.
Wasps in the Amazon are a frightful sight. Each the size of a thumb, they are among the area's fiercest creatures.
Initially, Chen-Campbell heard the humming.
Panicked, he leaped into the swamp to get away, but sunk to his knees. He couldn't get his legs free. Chen-Campbell was a prone target. Hundreds of wasps converged on him. He took the first two stings to the his neck. Several more wasps stung the top of his head. He threw off his pack to lighten the load, but couldn't extricate himself quickly enough. His back, now exposed, took close to a dozen more stings.
When he finally pulled himself free, Chen-Campbell ran for his sinking pack. As he turned his body to yank it free, the pack didn't move.
In the process, Chen-Campbell wrenched his neck - a neck already wired and fused together, the aftermath of a rugby injury he suffered more than two decades earlier.
"It felt like a hot poker was driven into my neck," Chen-Campbell said.
The pain caused him to pass out. When he woke up, Chen-Campbell received help from a member of the military who had been hired to patrol the route and watch for participants in distress.
"As I stood up, I had no feeling in my left foot," Chen-Campbell said. "I looked down, and there was a tarantula, dead, right beside me. I don't know if I rolled on top of it, or what."
Chen-Campbell took an IV at the next checkpoint, and because he accepted help, his race was over. On heavy medication to numb the excruciating pain in his neck, Chen-Campbell spent a delirious night writhing on a bed, screaming in agony.
He remembers nothing of that night.
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Chen-Campbell and pain are familiar bedfellows - at 20, his promising professional rugby career came to an abrupt end when he was tackled by three players, breaking his neck in three places. Chen-Campbell spent nearly two years in either traction or wearing a halo attached to his skull for a neck brace. He was told, many times, by surgeons that he would never run again, or, at best, walk with a limp.