Gory, but worth it!

by

or How Wilderness First Aid and CPR classes can make you a safer CMC leader! 

by Rick Casey

The Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) class for this year took place on October 27th and 28th in the Boulder Clubroom. Though I had to sacrifice a perfectly good weekend during Indian Summer to earn it, the refreshing of my WFA and CPR cards for another three years was well worth it — especially since they were subsidized by BMS (Boulder Mountain Schools) for all BCMC leaders. It cost only $50 for both courses! We had a pretty full class, consisting of mostly other trip leaders, though there were a few individuals who took the course on their own.

The course was taught by Vern Miller, of Trailmed Wilderness Medicine (see www.trailmed.com), with one assistant. It was an intense and customized course of high quality instruction. Vern lives in Estes Park and works closely with rescues done in Rocky Mountain National Park. I thought there might be the occasional trip for that, but was surprised when I asked him how often he got called out on rescue missions: about two or three times a month! So, Vern had many stories from recent and past memories which he recalled all through the course, either to illustrate an example, or describe a variation of what could happen.

One caveat that I need to mention: yes, the pictures were gory! We saw many realistic images of wounds and injuries from actual rescues, many of which were taken by Vern himself. It was not just for show; part of the purpose of viewing them was to prepare people for the real thing, in case it happens to you or your trip partners.  Other stories told were from the participants who related their own experiences, which helped to deepen the relevance of the course.

The course covered an abundance of material, starting with the legal considerations of administering first aid, through all the types of things one might encounter during an evacuation in the backcountry.

It is hard to imagine how the course might be improved, since it covered so much and was exactly tailored to what we were likely to encounter, from pre-existing medical conditions to the whole range of injuries possible in the wilderness. Though of course one would never wish such events to occur, the course was a great confidence builder in how to react in such situations.

I came away with a list of materials I need to get to fill out my own first aid kit, as well as many notes made on the handouts to help me review the material in times to come. I would highly recommend the course to anyone wishing to be prepared to render first aid in the backcountry; and you will not find a better quality course for the price if you become a CMC trip leader!

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