EMTs train High Country style
SUMMIT COUNTY – Two people riding all-terrain vehicles (ATV) were thrown from their seats last Friday on a forested trail near Breckenridge. The woman, who had a large gash in her forehead, sat against a tree, rocking back and forth, sobbing. Her fellow rider staggered away from the accident site, yelling for help, a broken bone protruding from his forearm.A crew of rescuers arrived at the scene, carrying oxygen tanks, a backboard and first aid supplies.
“Can you tell me what happened?” rescue worker Erik Rodgers asked the young woman, as another rescuer held a bandage to her forehead.Crew members worked quickly to assess the severity of the riders’ injuries, determining blood pressure and pulse, finding sources of pain and checking pupil dilation. They bandaged wounds, fastened slings and transported the victims to an ambulance waiting at the end of Tiger Road, a 15-minute hike from the accident site.
Once the riders were safely transported to the ambulance, they stood up, wiped the blood from their faces, arms and legs, peeled off their plastic wounds and debriefed the rescue.The rescue workers were all students in Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC) Wilderness EMT (WEMT) course, which teaches emergency medical care skills in remote wilderness settings. The ATV accident was one of dozens of emergency scenarios the group experienced during an 11-day stint in the field.”It’s all about what needs to happen when things go wrong and you’re an hour from care,” said CMC division director J.C. Norling. “If you’re mountain biking, and you’re half an hour out, how long is it going to take you to get back? That’s the context they’re operating in.”
The 180-hour intensive class combines classroom training and field work to prepare students for the EMT certification exam and a wilderness emergency care certificate – an industry standard in the outdoor recreation world and a big asset for many occupations in the Summit County economy.”We get a mix of all kinds of personalities. Firefighters, raft guides, ski patrollers, people interested in any EMS (emergency medical services) work in an ambulance or hospital,” Norling said.Among this semester’s personalities is Red White and Blue fire chief Gary Green.
“The fire district is getting more and more interested in open space now,” Green said. “More people are going to be utilizing places like Golden Horseshoe, and our operation is going to have to move further outside.”The course is a partnership between CMC and Desert Mountain Medicine, a private company that supplies backcountry medical instructors.Breckenridge resident Erik Rodgers took the course to boost his credentials as a backcountry guide.
“I’d like to get into cats or helicopters someday,” Rodgers said. “I’d also like to do some guiding in Central and South America. I had a big checklist of things to do when I moved to the county years ago, and this was one of the things on the list.”Keystone resident Aaron Parmet’s motivations for taking the WEMT class had less to do with his career ambitions than with his personal interests.”If I ever come upon a situation with my group, I want to be able to help. I don’t want to be stuck just standing there,” Parmet said. “It’s a heck of a time carrying a 200-pound person down from a ridge over logs in the dark.” Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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