Tuesday, September 17, 2013

WIlderness First Responder

 At the beginning of the summer, I decided to extend my backcountry resume.  The local community college was offering a Wilderness First Responder (WFR - also known as a "Woofer" around these parts) course and I thought it necessary for both skills and confidence, as I often set out into the wilderness solo. I also couldn't pass up the opportunity to kick off the summer camping and an outdoor classroom at the Big Bend Campground in Moab, UT.

The 80 hour course lasted 8 days along the Colorado River. It was a crash course, for sure, but I never had trouble paying attention in a classroom such as this

Instructor Jeremy Deem

Along with becoming a certified Wilderness First Responder, I also received my CPR certificate. Apparently most of these classes are taught in a traditional classroom setting, which doesn't seem right! Along with homework, tests and pages of notes, the scenarios were what secured our newly acquired knowledge. We did countless scenarios per day and would switch off between Patient and WFR. My favorite was when we found a victim (full body dummy) floating in the river. "He" was unresponsive so we had to treat him as if there was a spine injury. We used a walkie talkie to communicate with a "rescue team" while the other instructor spoke on behalf of our victim (when he was breathing or not, gasping, etc). Our team worked together to build a backboard out of rope tarp and blanket, while also making a makeshift neck brace. We carried our patient a couple hundred yards (those dummies are heavy!!) to a mock helicopter landing site with a wind sock and all! We were critiqued on our performance and overall did very well. I unfortunately don't have pictures from this scenario 

Some anatomy

Here are some great pictures of camp

 Colorado River is a couple hundred feet past the bathroom shack and before the bluff

 Golden Time for the giant thimble

Sunsets were amazing

Full moon from inside the tent

As if this isn't beautiful enough, Moab's Arches was only 10 miles up the road and a great place to check out mind blowing rock formations and an even better sunset

 You can see some people below

Sometimes I see objects and animals in the nature when I'm out exploring. I thought that this rock looked like a fish with a long snout. It even has an eye and mouth... Do you see it? I originally saw a swimming turtle, but the swordfish is more believable

What do you see here? This is a window through the rock with a rock mountain in the distance.

From the angle of my shot and the light coming through, I saw a fish swimming and I even tried to time the clouds to look like an eye!

 Climbed up some rocks for a different perspective

Despite obvious distraction, learning DID occur. For our Final, we participated in a group scenario followed by a written test. For our scenario, we hiked back into the canyon and found 2 injured "people." One showed signs of going into anaphylactic shock while the other had bones protruding from the arm and a broken femur. After determining an allergic reaction had occurred and taking the necessary precautions, we administered the epinephrin pen and monitored vitals. The other patient required making a splint out of part of a metal chair and figuring out how to move him out. We decided to build a "chair" with parallel hiking poles between two of our strongest men with backpacks. It took teamwork combined with heated disagreements, but we eventually made it out safely.

Back brace made out of common camping material

I clashed opinions with another member in our group. He said the design was fine and we should make moves quickly. I insisted that we needed to revise our design. He had about 80 lbs on me and got right in my face. I stood my ground until someone stepped in. I was worried that the argument would affect mine or the groups grade performance, but I was actually highlighted positively in review. Our instructor, Jeremy Deem, said in emergency situations, emotions run hot. That its still important to think  clearly. There will most likely be other people who think their opinion is best and, most likely, you, as the WFR, will have had the most training. Taking charge and not backing down is crucial. He was proud that I didn't back down when I knew something was wrong... Even when everyone else there didn't agree with me. Our design was flawed and I potentially avoided a hazardous situation. It felt good to stand out as a leader and build my confidence for dealing with real emergencies in the backcountry.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of the wonderful people of Moab..

This lady told me this was the best insect repellent.. Still have to look into it. I don't think she knew I was taking a picture