Before anyone freaks out with these pictures, know it is all makeup!! It was all part of Wilderness First Responder training and certification we achieved last week.
J & I have both been Wilderness First Aid certified, but becoming a Wilderness First Responder (WFR – pronounced “woofer”) has always been a goal of ours for personal and professional reasons. It was definitely a major step up from our knowledge base.
We went through National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI). It was an 80-hour class over 10 days, with two night sessions and one day off mixed in there. Intense and fun may seem like oxymorons, but those are the best adjectives to describe our experience.
The WFR course is designed to train participants to assess medical emergency situations. While the information we learned is applicable for daily urban life, the intention is to be trained to respond effectively and treat when 911 is not an option. Emergency response in an urban setting could be less than 10 minutes, but in the backcountry, it could be days. Addressing life threats and making a patient comfortable and knowing the right patient information to gather to plan for an evacuation could be the key to survival.
We have been extremely lucky not to encounter any crazy emergencies in the backcountry, but now we feel so much more confident and prepared should we have to.
One of the main goals with WFR training is to improvise and learn to use the gear you have. J is already a MacGyver, but he definitely upped his skills. We learned to make splints using our backpacks, sleeping pads and trekking poles. We learned how to make cervical collars and slings out of jackets and the hip belt of your backpack. We dispelled myths about lightening, hypothermia and swimmer’s ear.
The course is taught in a classroom, but just about half the time, we are outside testing scenarios. The hands-on teaching portion of the course is killer. The students rotate as patients and rescuers, so you get both perspectives. And the situations are simulated as close to real rescue situations as possible (hence the fake blood).
My list of illnesses/injuries included a broken patella (knee), a broken fibula (leg), a dislocated shoulder, a twisted ankle, crushed hands, lacerations on both my wrists, explosive diarrhea (twice) and I had an asthma attack.
J, on the other hand, broke his left leg twice, his right leg once, dislocated his patella, had a contusion on his head, dislocated his shoulder, was stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock, had hyponatremia and had a bad bout of angina.
We took the course in Denver, but class attendees were from all over and from all walks of life. I was impressed with how many younger folks (I consider under 30 to be younger) took the course. It seems like a good step in the right direction early on. We met some good peeps. When you spend 80 hours together, you form an inevitable bond. And when the whole class passes the course, there’s a reason to celebrate!!
We would recommend the WFR cert for anyone working/playing in the outdoors. Like I said, it was intense (class all day, study at night), but crazy fun.
And for the record (but also because this never happens), I scored higher on the written test than J did.