Last year I started looking into getting back into some sort of schooling, for what I really had no clue, but the idea of a first aid class popped into my head. I felt it would be a good way to get back into a class room environment as well as brush up on my skills. Last FA class I took was in 1993 when I was in college, and knowing that there had been changes over the years, I decided to start there. After mentioning to some friends about my thought, several spoke up and said to forget the traditional first aid courses and seek out a Wilderness FA class instead. I started looking into it, and really felt that with my recent forays into the back country, this would be a wise choice as a starting point. I looked into classes through WMI first, but then came across Remote Medical International based out of Seattle. They listed a WFA class in February, so after talking with the boss to switch schedules, I used part of my tax return to register for the class. I have to say, this was well worth it, even for how fast paced and intense the class was. The instructors had so much information to try and impart to us in such a short period, that it had to move pretty fast.
Saturday morning I headed up to McMinnville to Linfield College. The course description really caught my attention, it said to bring layers of clothing and essentially the same pack and kind of gear you would on a day hike. I was liking this more by the minute! Around 8:00 when everyone had arrived, we were introduced to the instructors, Janet Peterson, Kate Peters, and Dee Allen. All three had varying backgrounds which I feel really enhanced the overall instruction experience. Janet's energy and teaching style kept the class interesting from the first section to the end of the day, grabbing volunteers to be victims or assistants and surprising people by throwing various "curveballs" at unsuspecting students. During different sections, she would hand the class off to Dee or Kate while preparing for other parts, which included heading outside at various times to add a more real world feel to the class. Dee and Kate really knew their stuff, not only in the sections they taught, but even answering random questions or just interjecting into the lectures. During any of the hands on sections, they would all walk around through the class and either comment, critique or explain anything that was unclear. This was a very participatory class, you may sit and listen for a half hour, but then you spent the next half hour putting to practice what was just presented to you.
I finished day one feeling somewhat overloaded, but at the same time feeling satisfied, and somewhat accomplished even though I was only halfway there. I kept running primary patient assesment through my head, trying to focus on anything I may have missed, and think about any comments or suggestions I was given as well as feedback from other students I was interacting with. To give you an idea of how hard I was concentrating on patient assessment, I woke up running the ABCDE's of primary survey through my head at 5A.M.; Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Environment. I was concentrating on the subject matter fairly intense, since the primary assessment really is the basis of all your care from then on, and to miss anything could be detrimental to the patient. I headed on up to McMinnvillle again, ready to go, and feeling more confident in what I was learning. Right when we started, we all paired up and did another mock injury and patient assessment, which was in my opinion a great way to start the day. I was already more confident with what I was doing, but still missed a few things that my partner caught onto, and getting his feedback was invaluable to know what I needed to concentrate on a little more.
Just before the end of the day, we did one more scenario, this time I was a caregiver, and we were walking into an unknown situation. Even with not knowing what the exact nature of the problem, I was able to home in on the symptoms and begin to narrow down my scope to the aspect of potential treatments, and it wasn't an easy scenario. We were given information that it was a horse riding camp and it was late evening, and that was it. My patient was complaining of abdominal pain, and I was narrowing it down to an illness when the class was called back in. I asked my patient how he felt I did, and he said I did a thorough exam, and probably would have figured it out given a little more time. That's part of it, time, and being able to be thorough but quick so that a decision for treatment or evacuation can be made. From here, I still have a ton of learning to do. I have the WFA book from the class, as well as my Medicine for Mountaineering book to read, but this has given me more of a start, a personal reference to fall back on while studying so that the materials make more sense. I'm looking forward to taking a Wilderness First Responder class eventually, so that I can be of even greater help in the great outdoors. Janet, Kate, and Dee taught a wonderful class, and it has made me eager to learn more as my time in the back country increases. On the way home, I stopped at the pharmacy for a box of 4X4's and rolls of gauze after learning that those two items in abundance can fix most anything I'll be qualified to handle..........