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The wilderness is not place to get the jitters

James Carter of Australia picked up a syringe, turned a small bottle of clear liquid upside down and inserted the needle into the bottle. His instructor watched as Carter awkwardly tried to draw out the liquid.

“Spread your fingers and use the same hand to hold the bottle and steady the syringe,” said Julie Nordyke, an instructor with Wilderness Medical Associates of Maine.

Carter was one of 16 outdoor educators and wilderness enthusiasts from across the country who attended a wilderness first-aid seminar Thursday and Friday at the YMCA of the Ozarks in Potosi. The class was a pre-conference opportunity in conjunction with the Association for Experiential Education 14th Annual Heartland Region Conference at the YMCA.

During the seminar, students earned certification in two wilderness protocols, one of which was the ability to administer epinephrine to someone suffering from anaphylactic shock.

Students also became certified in cleaning and removing items from wounds. Simple as that sounds, most emergency staff are prohibited from such action, Nordyke said.

“As a paramedic, I can’t clean wounds,” she explained during a lunch break on Friday. “I couldn’t remove a fish hook. This is not good enough in the back country, because of the danger of infection.”

Wilderness medicine differs from traditional first aid largely because it is performed hours and miles away from hospitals. On a week-long hike in back country, for example, a simple injury could become life threatening before the person could be transported to safety.

Often, limited equipment makes it essential to be resourceful and to improvise.

The 16-hour wilderness first-aid course taught students how to handle emergencies and what to carry when heading into the wilderness.

Carter, Rosie Bonny of England and Charlee Crouse of Dallas, Texas, work at the YMCA camp and enrolled in the class to expand their outdoor expertise. When asked what to bring on an extended hike, the three tossed out answers at the same time.

“Triangle bandages, water, rope, changes of clothes.”

“Water purification tablets and a first aid kit.”

“A tent, matches, and food.”

Crouse picked up a two-foot long piece of flexible metal covered with a thin layer of foam.

“This is a Sam splint, and you should always carry one,” Crouse said. “It rolls up, so it doesn’t take much room.”

During a practice session for splinting techniques, Crouse and Bonny used the Sam splint, triangle bandages and their own clothing to stabilize Carter’s leg after a “knee injury.” Bonny slid a pole through the sleeves of her nylon jacket, then rolled up the jacket to create a cushioned stabilizer. The women put Bonny’s jacket and pole on one side of Carter’s leg and the Sam splint on the other, then secured the two pieces using the bandages and handkerchiefs.

When they finished, Carter stood up to test the splint. He deemed it secure enough for him to walk out of the woods with help.

Chris Daugherty of St. Louis also works at the YMCA. Daugherty said he learned a lot in the two days, including how to care for broken bones and how to handle someone with a suspected spinal cord injury.

The class included a written exam and several realistic simulations that included staged blood and screaming patients.

“When people see this in the real world, they get the jitters when they see all that blood,” Nordyke said. “This is the place to lose those jitters.”

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