Luck favours the well prepared....
When I started training to become an outdoor instructor it was a pre-requisite to be first aid trained and as I progressed through the mountaineering awards I have been trained in the skills to solve the type of problems that may happen while climbing.
But, in truth, I had by that time spent many years climbing with absolutely no knowledge of first aid and certainly without the skills to deal with emergencies that may happen on climbs. I had travelled the world and climbed on big mountains and big rock faces but could realistically have done little to help if the worst had happened. I was involved with accidents a few times but luckily there was always someone to do the hard bits and I just tried not to get in the way.
I might still have been the same if my journey into instructing hadn’t led me in a different direction – but I’m so amazingly glad it did. We covered a range of problem solving skills on my Single Pitch Award but it was on my Mountain Instructors Award (MIA) training course where the fire was properly lit. Over 2 focussed days we looked at a broad range of multi-pitch problem solving techniques and it was my favourite part of the course. After all those years I now had some rescue tools in my toolbox and it felt so empowering. I practised and practied those skills before the assessment and have since gone on to teach and deliver the skills to many other recreational climbers and instructors. It is an area of my work that I really enjoy.
The same thing happened with first aid. After seeing my partner get hit by falling rock at Pembroke, a life threatening accident in Jordan, dealing with a fallen climber on Cloggy and helping a fallen walker with serious head injuries in the Lake District you'd have thought I'd got the message about how important first aid skills were. Nope! I still didn’t learn any first aid skills. That’s certainly not something I’m proud to admit but the reality was that cost, availability or just the lure of more climbing always kept me from attending a course.
In the end I only attended a course because it is, quite rightly, a pre-requisite to becoming an instructor. It was another very liberating experience. From then on I felt more confident about walking towards an accident rather than walking away. I felt that I could help people. Going on to become a first aid trainer has cemented that and I love teaching others the skills to tackle the unexpected.
A few weeks ago I was climbing with a friend and I really needed those skills. I was belaying at the top of a climb and my friend suffered a medical emergency mid-way up the pitch. In the end there wasn’t any need for elaborate rescue techniques (I could lower them to the ground) but it still felt great to be fully in control at all times. If I had been in a different situation I knew I could get them down to the ground or hoist them to the belay ledge. I had options.
Once they were on the ground my first aid knowledge was also there and I felt calm and focussed as a result. I could identify the problem, stabilise them and knew exactly how to organise help (a huge thanks to the rescue team members that attended). I also knew what I would need to do if their condition deteriorated and I had the skills to monitor them until the cavalry arrived.
When I got home after the incident I felt desperately sorry for my friend (they are on the road to recovery) but I also had the reassurance that I had done everything I could. No mistakes, no missed opportunities and no time wasted due to a lack of skills. I still felt emotionally drained…but not emotionally destroyed.
The cost of a basic rescue course is £85.00 and 2 days of Outdoor First Aid training is only £100 (discounted rate for members of various organisations – or £125 without a discount). 3 days of your life and £185 to potentially save a life. Surely that’s a worthwhile investment?
Posted by Paul