When telling others about my goal to hike the 48 highest peaks in New Hampshire, I get certain reactions. Some people are genuinely interested in my endeavor and are excited to hear about my progress. Others try to relate and tell me their tales of their hiking experience. Some people have a difficult time relating and have a fear of all things related to hiking. There are people that are both excited for me, yet they don’t have experience hiking and fear that something will happen to me.
I am sometimes asked what I would do if I encountered a bear, a moose, a thunderstorm, a snow storm, another person (usually a male who for some reason decided they would put a lot of effort in murdering someone by hiking 4000 feet above sea level instead of going to a city alley), loose rocks, the wrong trail, nightfall when on a dayhike, or the ground after tumbling down a trail and breaking my leg.
I am either asked a boatload of questions or none. I do take precautions to prevent some of the previous situations. I carry a trail map, the trail description, and a compass. I also hike early and have an emergency bivy and headlamp in case I do run into trouble.
I decided to take a wilderness first aid course to help me with the last scenario. What if I hurt myself? What if someone I’m hiking with gets hurt? How would I assist others on the trail if my help was needed? I have been first aid certified for the past eight years, but my training has been limited to more urban settings; I may not be near a hospital. I might be six miles from a trailhead and many miles to a hospital from there.
SOLO courses originated in response to the needs of those who love and enjoy the outdoors. SOLO training is different from more traditional emergency medical medical and first aid training in that the emphasis is on how the body works, what happens to it when it has been injured or becomes ill, and the basic principles behind treatment. The most important step to help someone is to accurately assess them. You cannot safely move or treat a patient when you do not have a clear understanding of what happened or how the patient is doing.
The course is 16 hours long (two days), and focuses on the basic skills of: Response and Assessment, Musculoskeletal Injuries, Environmental Emergencies, Survival Skills, Soft Tissue Injuries, and Medical Emergencies. In order to become certified, you must pass the ongoing evaluation of practical skills, and written assessments throughout the course. The certification lasts two years.
The morning of day one I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I have been certified and re-certified in first aid many times and it has always been this drawn out class with information that you try to absorb for that one situation you may encounter. And you do this sitting at a desk for 90% of the time.
That morning we were warned that we would be receiving a lot of information that simply needed to be explained before we could get up and practice. Our teacher, John Kascenska, was very informative, funny, and reassuring. He helped make everyone comfortable to ask questions and try something new. He wanted us to get creative.
|De-crumpling a “patient” and moving him into the ideal position for assessment.|
Most of day one was focused on assessing the patient before doing anything else. This included a head to toe check, vitals, getting information from a conscious patient, and taking precautions to keep everyone safe.
|Lower leg fractures for everyone! Making splints using a sleeping mat.|
I learned so many tips and tricks on helping a patient stay calm, how to make the most sturdy and safest splint with the gear in my pack, and what information to get before helping a patient. I didn’t know there was more than one level of consciousness!
|Safely transporting a patient. Remember “light as a feather” in middle school….anyone?|
I highly recommend this course to anyone who spends a good amount of time outdoors either solo, as part of a group, or as a leader. I learned an incredible amount and was able to practice every skill I learned multiple times. I am looking forward to taking the advanced WFA course when my current certification expires.
Last modified: November 28, 2014