With no air conditioning in her apartment and temperatures nearing triple digits on Saturday, Eileen Pugh knew she had to get out.
There was pressure in her chest, and it was hard to breathe.
Pugh, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, knew the temperatures and her condition weren’t mixing very well.
“Heat and MS don’t go together,” she said. “It can go into an exacerbation.”
Pugh and her husband, Lee, headed to Anne Arundel Medical Center, but that was just the start of her ordeal. A short hospital stay turned into an all-night quest for a cool place to stay, and a first-hand experience with hotels jacking up rates due to demand.
Pugh arrived Saturday afternoon at AAMC’s crowded emergency room, where she was immediately tested for a heart attack and blood clots. She received an all-clear from doctors and she and her husband began to head home at about 7:30 p.m.
But it was still brutally hot, and their Edenbrook apartment still had no power.
“We were so caught up in praying it wasn’t a blood clot, we just ran out of there,” she said. “We totally forgot about the weather. When we got into the car we said ‘we can’t do this.’”
And so they drove. Everywhere in Anne Arundel County. Out west toward Frederick. They even considered West Virginia. While driving, they called every hotel they could find, all said they were booked solid.
Pugh then called Hotels.com, a popular online reservation service.
“I said, ‘I’m not just your normal person looking for a hotel room.’ I’m disabled and I need cool air,’” she said.
Pugh said that’s when the customer service agent asked how much she and her husband were willing to spend.
“He said, 'they’re taking advantage of the situation,'" she said. "'Five-hundred dollars would be the least and it could run you up to $1,000.'"
“I said, ‘I just need a place.’”
Pugh was presented with one hotel room in Lanham for $130, but elected not to stay there. So the couple headed home.
A Hotels.com spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.
The elevator in her apartment building wasn’t working, so she had to climb a flight of stairs. She spent the night sweltering until the power finally came back on at 6 a.m. Sunday.
“My husband just got stuff out of the freezer and just surrounded me with stuff we were going to have to throw out anyway,” she said.
According to the Maryland Attorney General, have increased since the storm, and are expected to rise further.
"It’s about money," Pugh said. "There’s no human interest. It’s quite a disappointment."