More than just bandages: Learning first aid for the wilderness

If someone was badly injured in the backcountry, would you know what to do? Could you stop a person bleeding from a large wound? Could you splint a broken leg? Would you know how to treat a patient with a head wound?

I wanted to be able to answer “yes” to those questions, so last weekend I spent 16 hours in a wilderness first aid course taught by Remote Medical International.

The class was informative, fun and a bit overwhelming — a lot of information was crammed into those 16 hours.

The most helpful part of the whole weekend was a number of scenarios we completed. The instructors knew what they were doing. Just about the time I could feel my eyes starting to glaze over from information overload, we’d switch it up by heading outside to practice what we were learning.

The students took turns being patients with various wounds. Throughout the weekend, I had a head wound, broken wrist and fell unconscious due to a bee sting. The instructors had a lot of fun with the very-realistic fake blood and bruise-colored makeup.

The class taught us how to deal with specific circumstances, of course. But more importantly, it was trying to teach us how to think. Over and over, the answer to questions we asked were “It depends.” Everything is different in the wilderness. If you’re 3 days from help, you’re going to behave differently than if you’re 10 minutes from help.

So, say you have a person with a dislocated shoulder. In the city, you wouldn’t touch that shoulder. You’d leave it to the hospital professionals to do that. However, say you’re three days from the trailhead. If you can relocate the shoulder without doing more damage, that might make it possible for the person to walk out with only minor assistance.

However, it all depends. Depending upon the type of dislocation, it might be too risky to try fixing it.

The class tried to teach us a sequential, logical way of working through injures to make certain nothing is missed. If you immediately start treating a victim’s broken wrist, you might fail to notice they cut their back and are bleeding out into the dirt.

We ran through a number of scenarios as practice. These were incredibly helpful. Practicing the processes helped cement them in my mind. Soon, as the final element to this course, I’ll complete a three-hour scenario. The purpose of the scenarios is to let the students put all their skills to use.

I can already predict there will be a good deal of fake blood. I hope this practice means if I ever have to deal with real blood, I can do so effectively and calmly.

After all, I have a very firm rule on not dying in the mountains. And that applies to anyone I travel with as well.

More in Life

Expo in Stanwood can help you get ready for the country

The Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool is set for Jan. 27 at the high school.

Curries continues home-cooked Indian cuisine at new location

The restaurant, now located on Evergreen Way, also puts an Indian spin on Northwest cooking.

Want to buy a house this year? Here’s how to start saving up

Here are five ways to help you put 10 percent of your income per year toward buying a house.

Long rocking bench with strange fence is for protecting baby

The settee is a furniture form that dates to the 1810s. It’s a lengthened Windsor or Hitchcock chair.

Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Night Circus

The Everett brewery’s head brewer had nightmares trying to dial in its new coffee and coconut ale.

A visit to the nursery helps put you in the mood to garden

Not ready to get back into gardening? January is still a fun time to poke around a garden center.

Plant of Merit: Hybrid oriental hellebores, Lenten rose

What: Oriental hybrid hellebores, with the common name Lenten rose, are a… Continue reading

Home and Garden calendar for Snohomish County and beyond

“The Promise of Spring”: Plant sale and workshops by Northwest Perennial Alliance,… Continue reading

‘Portlandia’ ending after eight seasons of lampooning hipsters

The sketch comedy series launched its final season this week.

Most Read