Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rescue 911

I participated in a helicopter rescue on my last day at Joshua Tree. First one I've ever participated in.

Three of us (women) were left climbing together. We went to Real Hidden Valley, which is a great little area - with the feeling like an old circle of wagons from the olden days, but instead of wagons, piles of rocks. Since it's a circle, and even though it's fairly big, sound gets transmitted really well. At first we were the only ones there, but then we heard another party start climbing across the way.

So, on our second climb of the day, I was halfway up when I heard a huge THUMP from across the way, and then "Oh fuck, oh fuck". I looked down at my friends, D and S. And then there's a scream "HELP!". You can't imagine the chills that went through me when I heard that. She sounded frantic - and then "Call 911!" over and over.

So we yelled back that we were getting help, and we mobilized. D was the driver of the rental, so she was the one to go get help from the ranger. She was freaking out because, as we had already heard, in the summer she had seen someone fall to his death in Colorado. S and I put our boots on and I grabbed what I could (a meager first aid kit, water, helmet, cordellette) and we ran over.

I'm a former EMT (meaning, I haven't kept the certification current) and S knew nothing, so I was the first responder technically. We arrived and the guy is standing up, obviously in pain, blood all over his face and back of his head. He had fallen at least 35 feet, pulled at least 4 pieces, landed on his back on the rock, not wearing a helmet. And he was standing up, coherent, talking.

Now, given that I'm not current I don't have the checklist in my head, but I do know the basics. I checked his head wound to make sure it stopped bleeding (using gauze), and listened to his list of what he felt. He is a former wilderness first aid responder (again, not current) so he knew what to say. His friend knew NOTHING, but was trying to help as much as possible.

I knew straight off he was 1) in shock and 2) hard headed (not just because he wasn't dead or unconscious). He was talking about walking back to the car, and I stopped that idea dead in its tracks. I did however let him go over to a rock and sit down. After sitting he wanted to change his shoes and also kept moving his head around, and I just repeatedly yelled at him to stop moving and that we would do what he needed.

After checking his eyes, pulse, and allergies/medications (in case he went unconscious), he started really going into shock - getting cold. So we found him a place to lie down and I put my vest and shirt over him. S had gone over to where we were climbing because some guys had shown up - she wanted to make sure they knew we were coming back. Well, one of them was a current wilderness first aid responder so he came over.

Then it was out of my hands. You basically pass the patient over to the person with the most expertise. He had gloves and started doing a toe to head assessment. Before he was even done with that, the rangers and EMTS and rescuers arrived en masse. Woo hoo!

We left to go get our gear and returned to help. By the time we returned, he had been given an IV and put into a stokes basket for transportation. He was still conscious and seem to be fine, so I yelled down to him, Hey T! Can I take pictures? He rolled his eyes but then said yes, he could show his son (an 11 year old son and he's climbing without a helmet!). So it was a well documented rescue and really fascinating.

Here he is after being placed in a Stokes basket.

The way we moved him out (and there were 10 of us helping at least) was to pass the litter along by people holding onto the bars of the basket, and not moving physically. When you no longer touched the basket, you would yell 'off' and then move down to the bottom to be the next person in line to grab the basket. This worked well on mostly horizontal, but was a bit trickier when it was more vertical. Then a rope was attached to the head bar and the basket was belayed down for control, with people passing it along as usual.

Here's the belayed and handing down the rocks.

Once we got him to level land, they pulled out what looked like an ATV wheel with two bars on it to make a V. The bars connected to the stokes basket, and all of a sudden we had a wheel! Six people held the basket as it was moved over land. I took photos.

Here he is being carted over land.

In the end, the helicopter came and transported him out. T kept saying he'd better have something broken after all this trouble (rib, spine, wrist, something). I told him to be careful what he wished for.

The next morning I wrote to his friend and she wrote back that he walked out of the hospital Monday night with just a broken thumb. Lucky hard headed dumb ass! I asked her if he would use a helmet now, and she responded: I don't know. He is kind of thick.

All the best to him. Dumb ass.


franki said...

Wow, I'd be a terrible first responder. I'd probably hyperventilate.

Susan said...

Ok, I think I read this wrong 'cause I was like "nor was...topless??"

Squirrel said...

I agree. Total dumb ass.

NoRegrets said...

Franki - different people react different ways...

Susan-I responded topless. Didn't you read that?

Squirrel. Who will live to breed more.

Churlita said...

Is he just too cool to wear a helmet? I don't get that. Talk about an extreme dumb ass.

i trained to be an EMT when I was in the conservation corps, but quit when I moved to Big Bear to work at the ski resort. For some reason, I'm good in those situations. I'm such a spaz in most others.

Mel said...

Well he was more than lucky.

Guess you had your fill of excitement, huh?

But thank you...for doing all that you did....

M. Robert Turnage said...

I think he was a cousin of mine. Climber. Kind of thick. Tendency to fall off sides of mountains. I might write about him sometime.

Thanks for doing what you did. If I were ever hurt and in danger, a topless NoR would be on the top of my list for people to rescue me.

NoRegrets said...

Churlita, he's been climbing for too long. The old time climbers didn't have helmets, and they didn't die back then, so when helmets were introduced, many feel they don't need them.

Mel, there's more excitement to write about!

MRT, if I ever have to rescue you I promise to be topless.

laura b. said...

I'm so glad the guy turned out to be okay. He was lucky there were people around him who reacted quickly.

heather said...

wow. i'd say he qualifies for idiot of the month and is in the running for idiot of the year.

Suzanne said...

Um, wow. Just wow.