Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wilderness Emergency Responder Training

Ok, since one of my three readers has complained I'm not posting fast enough here is what is happening so far in Denver.

CISM, Critical Incident Stress Management: This one-day course was not an auspicious start to the two weeks of training. Eight hours of lecture about potential psychological issues for winter-overs at the Pole and what to look out for. Useful and mildly interesting but I became concerned this was going to be a very long two weeks until day two arrived with ...drumroll...

Wilderness First Responder Training! WOW! What a great course! After a few hours of interesting and humorous lecture we broke into small groups and moved outside for simulated incident scenarios. Some of us played victims (complete with fake blood and bruise make-up, a list of symptoms, behavior and complaints) while the others evaluated the situation and treated us on the spot. We learned how to complete head-to-toe evaluations, do chunk evaluations when time is of a premium, how to identify spinal injuries and immobilize the patient, to evaluate LOR (Level of Responsiveness), how to remove victims from awkward situations without causing additional harm, and how to give CPR. And this was just the first day!

The remaining days were spent learning and practicing things like how to stop arterial bleeding, splint broken bones, apply traction splints and SAM splints, what to ignore (because they are beyond first responder's abilities to treat), how to report correctly to a remote medical professional, and how to identify and treat hypothermia. Of course all was oriented toward doing this in sub-zero temperatures. We even had to wear mittens for some scenarios. Trust me, taping a patient's head to a backboard while wearing mittens is no easy task.

For three days the hotel parking lot looked like a small disaster area. Victims were laying in the parking lot, in ditches, over rocks and under trees with teams running back and forth. Face up, face down, curled up, conscious, unconscious, fake blood, occasional screams and combativeness. Not to mention practicing carrying victims in a litter across parking lots, up and down stairs and through halls and doorways. Once, after a scenario, I was loading a backboard and kit bag into an elevator when a guest asked me if there was an emergency in the hotel.

I'm going to give a plug for the instructor of this course, Mark Crawford of the Wilderness Medical Institute. Mark is the perfect trainer for this course having been a career Air Force SAR team member and combat parajumper. Every bit of theory in this course was backed up with real-life stories about situations he has experienced, including mistakes and successes. There were two EMT's in our group and they seemed in awe of Mark. If you need emergency responder training at any level, including for physicians, WMI are the people to call.

Now on to Firefighter Training which will start Friday. They say that is the really fun course. If it's any better than this I'm not leaving Denver.

Days to the Ice: 122


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