I’m a Wilderness First Responder! Can I Help You?

Wild50 2014 Crew

I’m a WFR! Can I help you?

The Wild crew just returned home from the Western Sierra where we attended a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification course in the beautiful Sierra National Forest! What a treat it was to camp right outside of Yosemite National Park amongst trees and rivers and valleys after two months in the arid Mojave Desert region! Jen, Matt, and I had the opportunity to learn wilderness medicine and to study and play with a group of like-minded, outdoorsy people during the course.

WFR certification is so important for people in our line of work—you know, the type of people who get paid to camp out in the boonies for an extended period of time, hike around, and swing tools every day. Being a WFR allows one to assess signs and symptoms of various traumatic injuries and medical ailments based on any mechanism of injury, treat those issues (typically without many modern medical supplies), collect pertinent medical history, and report incidents or organize patient evacuations while in the backcountry, miles and hours away from a hospital.

During the class, we alternated between lessons in a classroom and practical patient assessment scenarios outside. Daily scenarios included anything from splinting open tibia/fibula fractures using only a sleeping pad, triangle bandages (cravats), and elastic ace wrap (WFR class can be like MacGyver camp at times) and reducing shoulder dislocations, to stabilizing the core temperature of hypothermic patients and responding to cases of hypoglycemia, heat exhaustion, and neurological issues like strokes and seizures. We participated in two large-scale mock scenarios as well. For one scenario, the class arrived on scene in the pouring rain where a group of people had fallen off of a slack line into a river. We had to safely beam (a patient transport technique that involves 7 people carrying someone with a potential spinal injury) patients out of the river and treat them for open femur fractures, hypothermia, and concussions among other things before carrying them up to a “helicopter landing site.” During our mock “search and rescue”(SAR) night scenario, each group of four people ended up forgoing the SAR effort to treat a group member with an open tibia/fibula fracture and another experiencing a bout of hyperglycemia over the course of 3 hours. Oh, and did I mention that mock scenarios are so much fun!

The WFR class has empowered us with so much important knowledge for use on hitch and off. The instructors warned us that once certified, we have an exponentially higher chance of being around incidents in which our expertise is needed. I’d say that’s fairly accurate since Matt, a.k.a. The Salty Dog (in CB Radio land), used his WFR skills only one day after being certified to splint the broken ankle of someone bouldering nearby him in Bishop! (He has been upgraded to Level 5 WFR Wizard status)

In addition to the training and certification, we’re stoked to have some new road trip games to play, such as “Here’s the scenario, how do you respond?” and to have added words like “crepitus,” “occlusive,” and “mittleschmerz” to our mental scrabble dictionaries. (Look ‘em up!) Seriously though, The Wildcorps crew is so thankful to SCA for providing us the opportunity to learn essential, potentially life-saving, wilderness skills with instructors from one of the best outdoor schools around (NOLS)!

This has been Leslie, a.k.a. Ol’ Chapped Lips. Thank you for reading.

P.S. We got a day off during WFR, which involved hiking in Yosemite and spa treatments. I’ve included some pictures.

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