It’s no secret that solo travel is my jam. But every time I go somewhere alone, it’s inevitable that at least three people ask me, “Aren’t you scared?” And the truth is, I always get pre-trip jitters, but that has nothing to do with my going alone. There is always some risk when going on a big trip far from home, or even a small trip close to home. And although I think it’s important to take calculated risks, planning ahead and preparing to help mitigate unnecessary risk is essential. One way I helped prepare myself for the unexpected was to take a Wilderness First Responder course.
Leave No Trace Principle 1 tells us to plan ahead and prepare. And educating yourself to handle a medical emergency is a great way to be prepared. By earning a Wilderness First Responder certification I am confident not only to go into the wilderness alone but also to lead others to go with me.
An emergency doesn’t have to just happen to you
One thing I really learned from taking my Wilderness First Responder course is that my skill will not only benefit me and my party but also anyone I might happen upon who needs help. Two of my classmates spoke to this. They were on fun trips when they came upon an injured person and were able to pitch in and help.
Having these skills could mean the difference in life in death.
Hope is a terrible risk management tool
One phrase that kept coming up in my study is that hope is a terrible risk management tool. Just hoping that everything is going to be fine will not help you in the event that something does happen.
I hope that I’ll never have to use my Wilderness First Responder skills, but if I do I am equipped to handle a bad situation.
Tackling my squeamishness
The first hurdle I had to overcome was my squeamishness. I can’t handle seeing someone in pain. But I just have to look at it from the angle that I’m helping to ease pain.
I have always been fascinated with science, but never the human body or how it functions. This is much to my mother’s disappointment. She is a nurse and wanted at least one of her kids to follow after her. But at last, we all chose the artistic path.
Our textbook had some pretty graphic pictures in them to illustrate the types of injuries we might be treating on the trail. To fight my squeamishness, I forced myself to look at the pictures. I imagined finding those people in the same situations as they were in the book and how I would treat them.
It wasn’t easy. But the more I familiarized myself with possible injuries I might encounter in the wilderness, the less squeamish I was. Because the last thing a patient wants to hear while they are hurting is, “Ewwwww!”
Learning how to improvise with what I have
One big takeaway I got from my Wilderness First Responder course was how to improvise with items we have at hand. The biggest factor that separates urban emergency medical services from wilderness medical services is time and access to supplies.
In an urban setting if you break your leg, you only have to bandage and splint it for a short time before you arrive at the hospital. However, if you are miles into the backcountry, it could be a long time before you even get to an ambulance.
And for someone who has broken her leg before, I know how good a splint can feel. I really enjoyed learning how to make splints from foam sleeping mats or trekking poles.
Learning associated risks and how to avoid them
Through taking the Wilderness First Responder course, we learned about all the types of injuries that can occur in the backcountry. We also went into detail on how to avoid the risks that can cause them. This is a great way to practice Leave No Trace Principle 1 because it helps me be better prepared.
Wilderness First Responder Skills aren’t just for the wilderness
By taking the Wilderness First Responder course, I gained skills that can also be useful in an urban setting. I became certified in CPR and have already had to treat a second-degree burn on my nephew.
Where I took my Wilderness First Responder course
I used R&H Training here in Arkansas. Most courses are a week long, but I couldn’t get off from work that long for a class. R&H Training’s course was over three weekends, which was much better for me because I work full time.
When I took the course, R&H Training partnered with Arkansas State University Mountain Home, who received a grant to pay our tuition. This was also a big help to me. Taking a Wilderness First Responder Course is an investment in both time and money. But it is so worth it.
My class received certification through the National Association for Search and Rescue.