It was just two weeks ago that I and 19 others went to Hurricane Island in hopes to obtain our Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification. For those five cold, rainy days, we were taught lessons and skills for treating emergencies in the backcountry including epinephrine administration to treat anaphylaxis and severe asthma, and basic life support CPR including the use of medical oxygen and an AED (automated external defibrillator), which is used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
My favorite parts of the week were the scenarios. In one particularly anxious scenario, a group of boaters had crashed onto the rocks on the south shore of Hurricane Island. The boat caught on fire, and our group of responders found six patients strewn about the rocky coast line with a number of wounds, injuries, and problems. My patient was suffering from mild turning to severe hypothermia. Other patients suffered from respiratory distress, a fractured pelvis, and an unstable ankle injury. It was thrilling to be part of such a scene. To treat these patients we had to stay calm and be on our toes in order to get them what the needed in a timely manner.
What was so great about the course was that the skills we learned were relatively simple to grasp and understand. Hopefully if or when something happens that requires more advanced knowledge, I will have this course to thank for being able to provide me with the proper skills. This is why taking a wilderness medicine course (especially in a wilderness setting) can be beneficial to anybody who spends time in the outdoors. You just never know when something may go awry.
P.S. Always remember…oxygen is good!
This course was taught by Bill Frederick, founder of Lodestone Safety International and Liz Carson, who is a wilderness therapy guide and lives in Vermont and Alaska. Both work for Wilderness Medical Associates, based in Portland, Maine.
Written by Marketing and Stewardship Coordinator, Caroline Albertson