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Lambone

Accident response...

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The several unfortunate accidents that have occurred in the last week have got me thinking lately (which is unusual for me smile.gif" border="0 ). I don’t want to try to evaluate what happened and why, or pin blame on anyone’s shoulders. Shit just happens, and I mean no disrespect to the victims or their families, or parties involved. This is merely a reflection, in the hopes of learning something from their misfortune, and turning something awful into something positive. Is there anything to learn about myself from these situations, can it help prepare me for experiences that I fear may one day come my way?

I’ve been doing some soul searching in the last few days, trying to vision myself in the place of a first responder in an accident scene. So far (knock on wood) I have been fortunate throughout my climbing experiences, and am thankful to have never run into a serious situation where another climber’s life was in my hands. I have heard dreadful tales of rescue scenarios, and stories of heroes taking full control of the situation by doing what needed to be done with no hesitation.

What I ask myself is; if I were in their shoes how would I respond? Would I have what it takes to remain calm and make correct decisions while considering all the possible outcomes of my choices? If faced with the real deal of a self-rescue in a remote area, would I be able to pull it off? When put in the position to undertake actions that could affect my partner’s future, the rest of their life, would I do the right thing? Could I handle that responsibility?

No one can answer these questions for me, yet I believe that everyone who assumes these risks must ask himself or herself the same question at one point. I like to think that my answer is yes, but to be completely honest with myself, I don’t think I can or will know until I am faced with that responsibility. This is one of my greatest fears in climbing; it is almost greater than the fear of falling in the victim’s shoes.

A person can seek out the training to deal with terrible accidents, and they can learn the technical skills to carry out a rescue to the best of their ability. I have had some training, and always could use more (someday soon I hope to set aside time for that WFR course).But my question is this: How does one prepare the mind for dealing with emergency situations? Is experience the only teacher in this regard? Is the ability to cope an attribute that people either innately posses or not, or can it be developed, and how? You can stage accident scenes, but its not the same, your blood isn’t pulsing through your veins and your heart isn’t in your throat, in a staged scenario your nerves aren’t all going the wrong direction on the one way streets within your mind. How does one prepare mentally for the moment where each second could be the crucial turning point between life and death?

This is just some shit I been thinking about in the last few days. Please feel free to add your own thoughts, be it spray that might make us all laugh, or your own personal explorations into this taboo topic.

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The fact you have thought this through to some extent probably puts you well ahead of most out there, so you should take some comfort in that. WFR builds confidence by putting you on autopilot to some degree in dire situations, but the doubts remain if you have not been tested in a real world accident.

Ironically, the WFR actually put more fear in me when I was driving and in everyday life. What if I witnessed a major accident? Odds are I'm the most qualified on scene to respond. Could I sort out the triage and delegate responsibility? Do I have gloves and mask available, etc, etc. I've found the best I can do is review constantly, and rest in the fact that at least I am doing the best I can to prepare for the worst.

Sometimes the WFR guys will let you sit in on scenarios in your area, or you can volunteer as a patient. This could at least keep things fresh in your mind and learn from others' mistakes. But you'll never know until the real one happens.

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Lambone...

A topic I've given a lot of thought to, and one always worth discussing.

I'm probably misplacing this quote, but I think Paul Petzoldt said that the first and most important thing to do in an emergency was to sit down and smoke a cigarette. Perhaps a more PC, modern-day solution would be to meditate or drink a bottle of mineral water, but the idea is the same-- take a deep breath, calm yourself, and do the best that you can.

I was on a maritime SAR team while I was in college, and frequently found myself in situations that would challenge my abilities as a rescuer. The more training you have as a foundation, the better off you'll be, but eventually you'll run into something that you never thought you'd have to deal with, and you just have to ride it out and hope for the best. People you'd never think capable of handling themselves will pull it together and tie the fastest knot they've ever tied, or whip a backboard under a sinking victim and lash them down tight. It's not completely an innate ability-- people aren't programmed to panic or stay cool. It happens, you do what you hope is best, and you come out the other side.

That's my take...

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I was a second responder in an accident last spring involving a woman I knew. I can remember being very upset as I was being lowered to her and saw all of the blood around her but upon landing next to her I went on autopilot, was able to stuff my need to control the situation and instead was able to be assisitant to the first responder who was actually very well trained in first aid.

My climbing partners were very competent. No egos got in the way and we very quickly put someone in charge and let that person make the decisions with no protest from us. In this situation we had all been through some rescue methods training and I believe all of us at some point had had a MOFA course. I would have to say that training and humility are major ingredients of a good rescue. A rescue is a bad time for power tripping or egos to flare up. We all kind of went on autopilot and only afterwards did it hit me and I had a good cry. Doug will have some good stuff to say about this one.

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I responded to a fatal accident last year. I wasn't the first on scene so when I arrived CPR was already in full swing. But when it became apparent that things were really serious I was asked to go speak to the victim's partner who was waiting nearby ... and at that moment I would have gladly traded places with anyone who was hand's on to the revival efforts.

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I was the first to Jim at the Vantage accident on Sunday. As his friend and climbing partner One would expect to freak out when you find them unconscious and not breathing after a fall, but I went into auto mode. I have nearly ten years of first aid and rescue experience as a ski patroller, and am thankful for every minute of that experience and training to let me do my best for Jim. Others at the scene also had first aid experience that they put to use.

Refelecting, I was probably the most calm and collected as I have been on any accident scene and emotions did not hit me until the med heli flew away.

Jim got the best scenario of a terrible situation.

I agree with many of the posts that if you have some training or experience, maybe just common sense, most people will get done the neccessary taks under stressful conditions and not fold until after the task at hand is done. Once again proof that the human body and mind is an amazing thing.

I want to also thank all those who helped at the scene and all those whose thoughts and prayers are with my friend. All ther little things are coming together for a turn towards recovery, though he is still in the coma.

Thanks for all of your support.

-Chad

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I’m in the midst of writing up an accident report from this weekend with what I think should be learned from it, but I thought I’d fuel the conversation here.

What I experienced on Sunday was something that I’d hoped I would never have to go through, and now that it has happened, I hope it never happens again. The reality though is that climbing is dangerous and it is likely that I will be in the vicinity of an accident again, and I will be ready, and better than I was this time. In a way I’m actually surprised I have witnessed more accidents with the sometimes carnival atmospheres that you see at places like vantage, 38, and Smith.

I spent about 5 years in a SAR unit. I’ve responded to things like hypothermia, broken bones, plane crashes, hangliders stuck in trees, and unfortunately casualties. This was the first time thought that I was first to the scene of something this bad, where someone’s life is on the line. It didn’t help that it was a good friend.

My friend Jim is very lucky to be alive. The fact that the only broken bone he suffered was his collar bone is beyond me. It could have been much worse, actually it should have. After lowering off the route I was on and reaching Jim right after Chad I quickly realized how serious this was. I don’t want to get into gory details right now but in my head I was confronted with the fact that he could die there. At first there was no breathing and not a detectable pulse with very evident head trauma. Chad and I both conceded to each other later that we both realized we very well might have had to resuscitate him. Having to perform CPR on someone with a potential neck/spinal injury is something I never want to have to do, you risk killing them trying to save them.

I think we were very lucky to be where we were, close to a road, near a couple towns, in a place where a helicopter could land easily. Had this been in a different setting I’m afraid to say the outcome might have been different.

Looking back at how I handled the situation I think I did alright, I wish I had done some things better but all I can do is learn from it. It’s definitely hard to stay calm in a situation like this and I really credit Chad, Andrew, and someone from another group named Chris who remained calm thus helping me stay calm. I’m definitely going to seek more medical training involving severe trauma. Luckily Chad was there who has more medical experience than I have, he knew exactly what needed to be done. Had this been a situation where we would have to rig some raises and lowering it would have been a good thing I was there because I spent hundreds of hour learning this type of rescue system. Luckily we didn’t need to.

I’m just really grateful Jim is still with us. This whole thing still seems a little unreal, in the same way Sept. 11 felt, though way more personal. Hopefully people hearing about and learning from this accident will prevent future accidents.

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There seem to be a number of posters who were out at Vantage the other day, and witnessed the accident. Let me gently suggest that what you saw may very well stay with you for a while. Stay busy, keep your friends close, and if you just can't shake it, or have trouble sleeping for more than a few days, you might consider seeing a mental health care professional. These things are hard on us, and we need to take care of ourselves as soon as the victim is in the hands of the real professionals.

Sorry about the sappy crap, but it's important stuff.

One more thing: Having been the survivor of a climbing accident myself, please, please, keep your head together, don't run away, and try not to scare your victim. When I fell, there were a number of people milling around the base of the route, and when it was apparent, after smoking a cigarette (thank god my French friend was there with the smokes) that I'd been seriously hurt, everyone except my party miraculously disappeared. I was the only one in my party with any First Aid training, and I had to talk them through every step of getting me stabilized and getting me back to the car. Fortunately I was conscious and able to do this, but I shudder to think what they'd have done otherwise. Now I always ask my partners what they know about first aid.

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This is an interesting thread. 1st of all, I'm very impressed with the response that occured after Jim's fall. It was a classic example of people stepping in to help in a very delicate situation. I can only imagine how difficult it is to respond to an accident that involves a close friend. I hope to hear more details later on. Fortuneatly, I haven't been invoved in a climbing accident myself.

I remember the accident that Jim mentioned. I was involved in doing a review of it. One of the hings that impressed me the most was the way in which the entire climbing party responded. Some went out for help, some went to the scene, others just stayed out of the way. The 1st responder was a guy who was waiting his turn at the bottom of the route. He just immediately went in to action. And handled it and himself very well. I don't know if the ability to respond to an accident in an appropriate emotional manner is something that can be taught. I do believe that whatever it is that allows for that type of emotional response is something that most anybody who climbs already possess.

A few years back I was starting a hike up Tiger Mt. from the road off of I-90. As I was starting up the trail, I saw a couple of buddies pull in and head up to the upper parking area. I told them I'd meet them there and hike up with them. So as I get to the power lines, I head right towards the upper lot. About 100yds or so down the road, I see someone off to the right, just at the edge of the woods. I'm thinking "hmmm, something ain't right here". So I stop and look closer. It's someone hanging from a tree at the edge of the woods. At 1st I thought t was a haloween prank, since it was that time of year. But sure enough, it was real. I went to the lot and one of my buddies had a cell phone and we called the Sheriff, and they came out and retrieved the body. Turns out it was a young homeless guy who wasn;t looking forward to spending another cold winter on the streets. The image stayed with me for a few days. Luckiliy, I had enough people to talk to about it that it didn't stay with me that long .

Since that time, I've become active in a SAR group and have been out on numerous calls that involved some pretty hairy stuff, messy accidents, patients dying before they could be evacuated, body recoveries of some fairly damaged corpses. The ability to tolerate it comes easier with each time out. If you know any EMT's, Firemen, cops, ER docs & nurses they'll probably tell you the same thing.

At some point in time all of us who climb have to think about it. If you dont think you could handle it, you may want to re-evaluate what you are doing. Or not.

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Doug, I think you're right that the emotional response can't be conditioned, but I DO think that people can control themselves enough to keep the victims from seeing their fear. I also think that as a layman, that you have to THINK about doing that, and that's why I mentioned it. I used to be pretty sketchy around people that had been hurt (my work is dangerous enough that there are bad accidents from time to time), and then when something happened to me I saw how that affects the victim psychologically. The first 15 minutes were pretty rough and unforgettable.

I'd love for Dr. Jay to weigh in on this, given that he's an ER doc. What can we, the un-hardened laymen, do to keep our wits about us, and keep our victims calm? I'm not talking about the medical stuff here, which we are limited to the skills and common sense we have, I'm talking about the other part of this...?

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Boner, I have been in on three climbing accidents of which only one was my climbing partner, but in every case I automatically switched into a calm "got to take charge" mode as I was the only one that seemed to be looking and thinking about what to do. Two of the cases were life threatening and the one involving my climbing partner was not. The former two involved helicopter rescue. Besides climbing I've been the first responder in serveral car accidents. Two of the first responder car accidents were taking care of myself...stopping bleeding, checking out the limbs for breaks, looking for objects that were sticking in my body, etc.It seemed that the bystanders did not want to get involved so I just took care of myself until the medical people arrived. But the first thing to remind yourself of is ths: STAY CALM, CALM DOWN THE VICTIM(S), ASSURE THEM AND THEIR PARTNERS THAT ALL IS GOING TO BE WELL, ASk FOR ASSISSTANCE FROM MORE QUALIFIED IF THEY ARE PRESENT. And after is all said and done...take some time for yourself because you are going to crash after its all over if its a bad one. [big Drink]

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I have never had another persons life in my hands, thank God, but I did see someone die right in front of me. Hit by a car at 60 MPH, he died instantly. I ran over to help, but with half his head gone there wasn't much I could do. I have looked back on this situation many time and wondered what would I have done if he had been breathing. I have first aid training, but have never used it for real. I really like to think that at that moment instincts would take over and I would just do what I've learned without really thinking about it. I'm afraid if I stopped to think that this persons life is in my hands I would become frozen from fear of doing the wrong thing.

I have been in some scary situations where my life was on the line and I can say that my actions were anything but thought out. I just did without thinking and looking back on them I don't think there was a better way to handle it. So I take comfort in knowing that sometimes the brain takes over and the ego steps aside. We can't always control when it happens, but it happens. There is no way to know exactly how we will respond in these situations until they actually happen. But more often than not instincts will take over and we will (as the commercial says) JUST DO IT!

Hopefully none of us will have to find out, but if we do I take comfort in knowing that of all the tragedies we've read about lately it seems like the right thing was done every time. Regardless of the spray that shows up here from time to time (or more) climbers really are a close family (God, that sounds dorky), and when the shit hits the fan and help is a ways off we always seem to come through.

Ok, Ok, this sappy crap is starting to get to me. Let's all just climb safe and keep an eye on each other.

Stay safe,

Craig

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