Wilderness First Aid – Case Study

This past weekend some bushcraft and outdoor skills came together when an evacuation of a friend at a backwoods campsite became necessary. He had an accident with a Trail Hawk Axe while processing firewood when a glancing swing come back and hit him in the shin.

He explained, “Why it happened is easy. I was dumb. I broke the rules and paid for it. After we arrived at camp and said our greetings, I started to collect fire wood. Since doing a day trip, I only brought my Trail Hawk and an Opinel folding saw, not a buck saw, which was what was needed. The major mistake was that I was using the hawk in an unsafe manner. I was cutting a branch about chest high with axe. If the hawk missed, there was no safe backstop like the ground or another log to stop it. Just me. I’ve done it a hundred times with no problems, but this time I didn’t get away with it. That’s my stupidity.”

We benefited well from having multiple people with EMT and Wilderness First Aid Responder training including the patient himself who stayed calm and expertly directed his own care with our observation and questioning. Each of us had packed medical kits should we have to deal with such a situation and we had a mix of bandages and wraps to apply on and compress the injury.

It became clear quickly that he would not be able to hobble the mile long rough uphill terrain out of the forest so we reassembled a bushcraft campchair into a stretcher using cordage and lashings.

Luckily we had 5 guys on scene to assist with the evacuation as our best exit was an uphill route that began in a dense forest of saplings. At this stage it was easiest to carry our patient at waist height to best navigate the brush.  As we made it onto an old logging road and the forest began to open it became far easier to carry at shoulder height and rotate positions to alleviate stress.

It took us almost two hours from the incident to get to the cars before travel to a hospital.

Time to reevaluate the first aid kit for the next trauma and to remember that complacency can be the most deadly environment we find ourselves in.

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