They lay side by side in a Bloomfield Hills family room that has been temporarily transformed into a recovery ward. Kaylie Eisenberg and Dresden Cogan, both 15, are slowly healing after a harrowing ordeal that left the teens with severe injuries and a dramatic story to tell.
Dresden is in a body brace with a broken back. Kaylie suffered a lacerated kidney, liver and spleen, two broken ribs and three cracked vertebrae.
It happened Saturday, July 9. The girls were camping at Isle Royale National Park (on an island north of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula surrounded by Lake Superior) as part of an annual 11-day CIT trip with Camp Tanuga. They had just completed an afternoon hike when they tied their hammock to some trees, which appeared to be sturdy, and one of the large tree trunks came crashing down.
“I got on the hammock right next to Kaylie and then I heard a crack,” Dresden recalls. “I kind of knew what was happening, but I couldn’t get out. I didn’t know what else to do, so I put my
arms over my head.”
The tree landed on top of both girls. A third camper, Tess Rosenthal, managed to get out of the way and attempted to hold the tree up while yelling for help.
“I got out from under the tree and I saw Kaylie under the tree and I stood up, but I collapsed,”
Dresden says. “I remember lying on the ground crying and screaming. A counselor lifted the tree off of Kaylie.”
According to the girls, that counselor, Jackson Rumble, also ripped two doors off of nearby structures and used them to create makeshift backboards to stabilize them. Other campers worked to comfort and calm their injured friends while a frantic effort unfolded to alert National Park Service rangers and get emergency personnel to the remote campsite.
“When I first got out from under the tree, my first instinct was to cry,” Kaylie says. “I wanted to cry, but it hurt to cry. We didn’t know what was wrong with me. I tried staying calm. If I was freaking out screaming, I don’t think I would have made it.”
Calls For Help
Family members say counselor Olivia Stillman and camper Drewe Raimi ran to a nearby campsite approximately four miles away to call for help. The park’s website says cell phone service on the island is not reliable. “Maritime radios and park service satellite phones were used” to finally reach authorities, according to a letter sent to parents by Camp Tanuga staff members. The letter also says Wilderness First Responders (who receive a two-year certification) travel with each hiking group along with an extensive first aid kit. The camp did not respond to a request for additional comment. The girls’ parents received a late-night phone call notifying them about the accident.
“All they said was that Dresden was in a terrible accident and she was alive,” says her father, Sol Cogan. “We knew they were both alive and they were both conscious, and that’s really all we knew.”
Kaylie’s father, Brian Eisenberg, added, “As a parent, it’s your worst nightmare to receive that call. I am thankful that Kaylie and Dresden are recovering and that, in time, their normal lives will resume.”
Kaylie’s parents, Eisenberg and Stacey Bernstein, and Dresden’s parents, Cogan and Teisha Tann, scrambled to secure private planes to get to Hancock, Mich., where a rescue helicopter would be bringing the girls.
Back on the island, it took approximately six hours for medical personnel to arrive. After that, Kaylie and Dresden had to be carried several miles on stretchers through the woods in the dark to a clearing where they could be hoisted into the helicopter. (There are no roads on the island, only trails.) The chopper could only take one patient at a time. Kaylie was transported first; Dresden followed more than an hour later.
The parents made it to Hancock just in time to greet the helicopter and accompany their children into a nearby hospital.
“Dresden’s helicopter came, and she was a disaster,” Cogan says of his daughter. “She was screaming in pain. She had mud under her nails because she clawed her way out from underneath the tree. Thank God we were able to get there.”
The teens were later transported by air ambulance to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak where they spent several days in the intensive care unit. They have since been released, and with ongoing therapy and doctor’s visits, are both expected to make full recoveries.
Love And Support
In the aftermath of the accident, Kaylie, Dresden and their families are counting their blessings, including a huge outpouring of support from the local Jewish community. The girls have received regular calls and visits from friends, Temple Israel’s rabbis (both families belong to Temple Israel) and others. Several friends who are doctors have also consulted with the families, referring them to top specialists.
“We are seriously blessed,” Teisha Tann says. “We are so thankful for the love and support and thankful the girls have each other.”
Kaylie and Dresden have been together as much as possible, helping each other both physically and emotionally through their recovery. In spite of the ordeal, the teens say they love camp and wish they could return for their last official summer as campers.
The girls and their families are also thankful for the heroic efforts of the counselors and campers who served as “first responders” in the critical time period following the accident. Tanuga staff members echoed that sentiment in their letter.
“We are extremely proud of the way our staff and campers responded to the adversity that took place. It should also be noted how effective the park service was in securing help for the group. The harsh reality of these trips is accidents can happen, and due to the remote location, the timeliness to secure proper help is not always ideal.
“Moving forward, we are determined to continue what has always been a very successful overnight tripping program.” *
By Robin Schwartz | Contributing Writer