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Case Study: A Backcountry First Aid Mystery from the ’80s

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 2/13/19 11:23 AM

Fashion trends might change, but some things don't! NOLS students backpacking in the mountains. Photo from the NOLS Archives.


This is a tale from the early 1980s. Reagan was President, the internet and cell phones only a dream, and disco thankfully on its last legs. Two friends and I had recently learned wilderness medicine skills through an advanced first aid course, which was an early generation of the Wilderness First Responder (WFR).

Read along to see how you would react to a similar first aid situation today.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, case study, Wilderness First Responder, first aid, altitude illness, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Case Study: Is That Frostbite?

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 1/24/19 9:13 AM

Rescuers practice giving patient care. Photo by Aron Gooch.
 

The Setting

You’ve been leading an outdoor skills course for young adults, most of it taught indoors or on day hikes. This weekend is the culminating overnight snowshoe trip where you plan to sleep in hollowed-out snow shelters, called quinzhees.

The snowshoe hike went according to plan and you and your group arrive at your planned campsite. Everyone appears weary, happy, and healthy. You note that it is much colder than any previous trip you’ve led, with temperatures hovering near 0°F (-18°C).

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Topics: wilderness medicine, case study, Wilderness First Responder, first aid, winter, frostbite

Your 8 Favorite Wilderness Medicine Posts of 2018

By NOLS on 12/19/18 4:43 PM

While wilderness medicine is a constantly evolving field, some things stay the same—like people wondering whether it’s really ok to suck out snake venom, or the steps of the Patient Assessment System.

As 2018 wraps up, our team gathered this year’s most popular wilderness medicine topics from the NOLS Blog. Take a look to refresh your skills and get ready for whatever comes your way in 2019!

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Topics: Live the Dream, wilderness medicine, first aid

Real-Life Scenario: Stuck on a Climbing Route

By Jake Blackwelder on 11/26/18 8:02 AM

The rescue team. Photo courtesy of Jake Blackwelder.
 

The 911 call: A climber was stuck in a crack on a classic multi-pitch trad route at a well-known sandstone climbing area near Moab, Utah. The incident happened near the top of a large chimney, a crack wide enough to fit a climber’s entire body into. The climber was about 100 feet from the ground and 40 feet below the pitch anchor, the next opportunity to attach securely to the wall.

My wilderness rescue team, consisting of myself, another Wilderness EMT, and three Rope Rescue Technicians, were the ones to receive the call and respond to the incident.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, scenario, first aid, rock climbing, rock rescue

Case Study: A Hard Fall While Skiing

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 11/7/18 1:14 PM


Photo by Brian Fabel.

Editor’s Note: This case study is based on an actual incident that NOLS Wilderness First Responder and Wilderness First Aid graduates responded to.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, case study, Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness EMT, winter, first aid

Real-life Scenario: A Surfing Rescue in Baja California

By Lisa Kosglow on 10/22/18 9:48 AM

Photo courtesy of Lisa Kosglow
 

My NOLS Wilderness First Responder course made a real difference in my life—and someone else’s.

Six months after my course, I was on vacation in Baja California, Mexico, where a south swell lured my family and me to a popular beach to go surfing. At the beach, a few people were in the water, including a small group of surfers and one stand-up paddle boarder. As I paddled over a breaking wave, I saw the next one about to break with one surfer paddling over it and the stand-up paddle boarder dropping in. What happened next played out like a horrible car wreck.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, rescue, case study, first aid

Case Study: Is Hydration Always the Answer?

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 10/10/18 12:35 PM

Photo by Liz Schultz.
 

The Setting

You and three friends are hiking through a sandy wash in the desert. Even though it is fall, daytime high temperatures have been 100°F (37.7°C) with no clouds in the sky.

Your group encounters another party of two hikers, one of whom is lying on the ground under the only small juniper in the area. The other hiker seems worried. You ask if everything is ok. One hiker is fine but asks if you can help with the patient, who he worries is dehydrated or having a “heat stroke.”

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Topics: wilderness medicine, case study, hydration, Wilderness First Responder, first aid

Quiz: Sprains, Strains, and Athletic Injuries

By Ben Lerman on 9/26/18 9:53 AM
 
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Topics: wilderness medicine, quiz, Wilderness First Aid, first aid

Gender-inclusive Communication for First Responders

By Ben Lerman on 8/23/18 8:23 AM


Practicing a patient assessment during a course. Photo by Luis Camargo.

As a medical provider in the wilderness, it’s important to not make judgments or assumptions. For example, rather than assuming a patient is low risk for a spine injury, you can use a focused spine assessment to gather information relevant to your decision.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, first aid, Inclusion, communication

Case Study: Finding a Sick Person High in the Mountains

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 8/15/18 9:05 AM
Photo by Ashley Wise.
 

Recertify

The Setting

You are a Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer working with a team to sweep a trail in the central Rocky Mountains in response to a vague cell phone report of an ill person somewhere on the trail. Eight miles from the trailhead at 8,800 ft. (2,680 m) you find the patient sitting on a log. After introducing yourselves, and with the patient's permission, you and the SAR team members begin an assessment.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, case study, first aid, Wilderness First Aid, altitude illness

Quiz: Managing Altitude Illness

By Ben Lerman on 8/8/18 8:44 AM
 
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Topics: wilderness medicine, first aid, Wilderness First Aid, quiz, altitude illness

7 Fishing First Aid Hazards (and What to Do)

By Ben Lerman on 7/18/18 8:35 AM


Photo from NOLS Alaska

You’re enjoying a beautiful day at your local fishing spot. Fish are rising everywhere and you’ve hooked three big brook trout already. But your day can easily take a turn if you accidentally walk through a patch of poison oak. Or get stung by a wasp. Or slip on the rocky shore.
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Topics: wilderness medicine, first aid, Wilderness First Aid, fishing

Case Study: A Hot Day Becomes a First Aid Situation

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 6/25/18 3:23 PM


Photo by Ashley Wise

THE SETTING

You’re leading a canoe trip for a group on the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park in Texas. It’s been a hot trip, with temperatures well over 90°F (32°C) day after day. Today, the group started off with a long morning hike up a side canyon, and now you’ve been paddling for several hours, floating lazily along, watching birds swoop around the limestone cliffs.

Suddenly, your observations are interrupted by yells for help downstream. You paddle quickly to a beached canoe and several people on shore. One of your participants is shouting something about a seizure.

Another participant is lying on their back in the sand. Their legs are quivering, but their arms seem to be moving normally. The other participant insists this is a seizure—you’re not so sure.

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Topics: case study, wilderness medicine, heat illness, first aid

Quiz: Treating Heat Illness and Dehydration

By Ben Lerman on 6/13/18 12:15 PM
 
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Topics: quiz, wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, first aid, heat illness

Stay or Go? Making Evacuation Decisions [Infographic]

By Aidalicia Swertfeger on 6/11/18 8:54 AM
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Topics: wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, infographic