Wilderness First Responder to the Rescue

A Wilderness Medical Associates graduate of a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course utilizes his training and helps a climber by performing a shoulder reduction at 10,000 feet!

mountain climbing“I thought that I would share with you an event from this past weekend in which I was able to use my WFR training.  While Deanna and I were climbing a 5.7 route on Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows, a climber above us suddenly screamed out in pain.  He felt said pain while trying to make a mantle move onto a ledge.  He immediately asked me for help; knowing the scene was safe, I climbed up to him, got him to a safe place on the ledge and helped him sit down.  I told him that I’m a [Wilderness First Responder] and asked if he wanted me to take a look at what might be going on with his shoulder.  During my bilateral eval, I determined that his shoulder was likely dislocated.  Since it was an indirect injury of the joint, I told him that I could reduce it, and explained to him the process and pain relief benefit.  He asked me to do it, so I helped him to a lying down position (thankfully it was a big ledge) and started the reduction process. It only took two minutes or so to reduce the injury, and as expected, he felt immediate relief from the pain. I told him that I wanted to sling and swathe the arm, and then haul him the remainder of the way to the top.  (Thankfully I was only looking at 40 feet or so, which with a 5:1 mechanical advantage pulley system isn’t all that terrible.)  He didn’t want to be rescued any more than necessary, so he said he was going to try to climb the remainder by himself.  I told him that my offer stood if he changed his mind.  He was able to make it the remainder of the climb (a 5.6 crack).

I’ve thought a lot about this situation since then only to realize how things would have been very different had Deanna and I not taken the WFR course.  Not only did that course give us the specific tools to deal with such emergencies, but I have never felt more competent to provide medical care in wilderness context or otherwise. (And I didn’t even suffer any ASR, sympathetic or otherwise! {smile})  That said, I want to thank you once again for the great training.  I’m sure you’ve heard more than enough such stories, but I thought that you might like to hear another.  I hope this finds you well.”

This story was also featured in the August 2009 issue of Journal of Mountaineering on page 18.

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