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Community steps in to help Utah man in critical condition in Peru

On Feb. 17, Dylan Astill got a text message from his brother, 35-year-old Bryce Astill, who was on a two-month solo adventure in Huaraz, Peru. The message said that he wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be participating in an upcoming trek he had planned, said their sister Aubrey Waldron.

Dylan Astill, who was at home in Park City, managing his brother’s high-rise window-cleaning business while he was away, thought nothing of the text message but wished his brother well, Waldron said. Six days later, Dylan Astill got another message from Bryce Astill, saying he was at the local clinic to be checked, followed the next day by “I have acute pulmonary edema and pneumonia. I am being moved to the ICU. Call Dad.”

After that, silence.

Dylan Astill and his family were in Utah, faced with the unknown. Bryce Astill was in a foreign country, unable to communicate with his family, and nobody knew where he was and how to get to him, Waldron said.

After a series of calls and overcoming a large language barrier, Bryce Astill’s father, Dennis Astill, and sister Alicia Astill, who is a traveling nurse, were able to find out that Bryce Astill was at Clinica San Pablo, Huaraz, Peru.

What they found when they got there was not what they expected.

Just two hours before the two family members arrived, Bryce Astill began showing signs of renal failure. He was not responding to antibiotics and was sedated and intubated, lying in the hospital bed in critical condition and unable to speak to his father and sister.

Family members wondered how such an active, healthy person could have a sudden, life-threatening condition such as this.

Bryce Astill is an athlete who teaches CrossFit and has run and trained at high altitudes — even up to 100-mile distances at a time. He was well equipped to handle the high altitudes (up to 10,000 feet) of Peru, as he had often trained in the high Uintas.

Nobody had answers, only speculations.

What family and doctors knew was that Bryce Astill needed to be moved quickly to a hospital in Lima, Peru, if he were to survive, but that presented other problems.

Transporting Bryce Astill could be dangerous, even deadly. Also, in Peru, patients must pay for treatment before they receive it, so Bryce Astill’s family needed to raise funds quickly if they were to save his life, Waldron said.

Close friend and family spokeswoman Jenny Powers set up a GoFundMe account to raise funds, and from it, his family soon learned how many lives he’s touched.

“Bryce is a fixture in the running, ultrarunning and CrossFit communities,” Powers said. “He has run many 100-mile races, placing consistently in the top 10, but he is an even better pacer. He has helped many people cross that finish line and many other finish lines.”

Waldron described her brother as “the most genuine, kind, giving and passionate person you'll ever come across,” adding that as a nine-year sober recovering heroin addict, Bryce Astill has helped recovering addicts and mentored troubled youth and battered women through a meditation technique called mind-body bridging.

“Through this challenge, we have seen that Bryce’s family goes way beyond his immediate family,” Waldron said. “It has been so eye-opening to see how many lives he’s reached. So many people see him how we do, and love him how we do.”

Since the GoFundMe account was set up, over $41,000 has been raised, mostly in small donation amounts.

The family wants to tell all those who have helped how grateful they are.

“We know he is not out of the woods yet, and there are so many more hard days ahead, but it has been so great to have the support of all of Bryce’s friends,” Waldron said.

Bryce Astill is in a private hospital in Lima, still sedated and in critical condition, and will stay there because it is too dangerous to transport him to the U.S., Powers said.

The family still needs help to cover the thousands of dollars in upfront medical costs, she said.

A donation account has been set up at America First Credit Union under “Bryce Astill Charitable Account.” The GoFundMe Web page is called “Bryce Astill Emergency Medical Fund.”

Arianne Brown is a mother of seven young children and is a Salomon at City Creek, Nuun and Unshoes sponsored athlete. For more of her writings, search “A Mother’s Write” on Facebook. Twitter: A_Mothers_Write