2-day Wilderness First Aid Course (leading to Remote Emergency Care Level 2 qualification), Jesus College, Cambridge
Seemingly minor first aid incidents can rapidly become very serious in a wilderness situation where exposed to the elements and with no immediate access to hospital facilities and carrying only minimal amounts of equipment (ie when hillwalking). Priorities change and first aid becomes a much more inventive process of ‘making do’ with what you do have with you. A group of Cambridge hillwalkers attended a two-day wilderness first aid course at the end of Easter term 2010, in order to learn effective first aid knowledge, procedures and skills for a ‘wilderness’ situation...
Thursday dawned bright and early (very early for those who had returned home at dawn from May Week festivities...) and a group of fresh (and not so fresh)-faced hillwalkers found their way to Jesus forum ready to begin the eagerly anticipated Wilderness First Aid Course. Introductions revealed the tremendous scope of participants’ outdoor activities and the (rather limited) extent of prior wilderness first aid knowledge. Nevertheless, our trainer Louise was undaunted and optimistic. The day’s proceedings got off to a fascinating start, with an abundance of acronyms and acrostics to guide us through the twists and turns of basic wilderness first aid knowledge. Theory was complimented by practice throughout, with participants donning sunhats and shades to venture out into the ‘wilderness’ of Jesus College gardens for ‘live’ scenarios. Significant sleep-deprivation failed to manifest itself, even in unconscious casualties, and panic attacks were definitely energy-abundant, whether triggered by trees, feathers or other unusual ‘phobias’. On Friday, participants progressed to broken bones, allergies, serious wounds and spinal injuries. Unfortunately, having been told that spinal injuries can only occur after a 1m drop or a collision with a speed difference of 30mph, one participant demonstrated that it is all too easy for the memory to combine these conditions so that a 30m drop is needed before ‘spinals’ become worthy of consideration... Nonetheless, much was learned in the relaxed but conscientious atmosphere.
Overall, the course was a resounding success, teaching an enormous amount to all and much enjoyed. We greatly appreciated the knowledge and wisdom passed onto us by our brilliant trainer, Louise. But this appreciation became particularly real when a number of us found the need to apply our newly acquired skills less than a fortnight later, on an unofficial trip to the wild backwaters of the Norfolk Broads. It was a shock for some to see real blood in place of stripy green and yellow gaffa tape, to the extent that one casualty almost became two... However, the situation was salvaged by the other capable wilderness first aiders, with the help of a positive group spirit (bordering on general amusement), some trusty latex gloves (unfortunately a pair which had already had an intimate acquaintance with Jesus’ gardens) and copious amounts of duct tape (note: in climates liable to see some sun –probably no need to worry about Scotland or the Lake District – choose SILVER rather than BLACK duct tape, in order to avoid burns). Within two more days, wilderness first aid experiences multiplied to include severe shock, high impact collisions (human on human...), phobias (of fish...?) and grievous burning of the tongue (surprisingly difficult to hold under running water for an entire minute...). I hasten to reassure readers that none of these injuries were incurred whilst actually hillwalking. However, it only goes to show that the skills learned in a Wilderness First Aid course can come in handy in almost any setting or situation.
Report written by Kirsty Brown, 11/08/2010