Outdoor activities remain wild for millions of Americans. Whether it’s an easy stroll through the local park or a mountaineering expedition in the Cascades, people are outside doing things in remote areas of our world. While these adventures lead us down incredibly rewarding paths, every step in pursuit of adventure puts us a little bit further from help - should the unthinkable occur. Even a short hike in the local park could add precious minutes to the response time for an ambulance; it may take them 5-10 minutes to arrive at the parking lot, but how much longer will it be before they arrive where you are and the emergency is unfolding?
This gap in time, from when an emergency occurs to when an ambulance arrives, contributes to the 136,000 deaths due to accidents that occur in the U.S. every year. As long as accidental death remains the fourth largest cause of death for Americans, it is crucial for you to prepare for the worst - because it doesn’t matter who you are, or what your daily activities entail, traumatic injury will find its way into your world eventually.
The Scenario - Hiking up a Wintery Trail to Shoot a New Henry Rifle Golden Boy
Your buddy just got a gorgeous new Henry Rifle Golden Boy in .22 mag that’s begging to be shot. It’s winter, but the temperature has crept into the 40’s so you both agree that a hike out to his family’s property to plink some cans is the perfect way to enjoy the day, but only after a quick stop for waffles and coffee at the local diner.
When you finally make it up the winding country roads, having caught up on everything from the new girl at the gym you’re terrified to talk to, and the 2018 Jeep Wrangler you think you might be able to afford, you almost miss the dirt driveway that leads to the property. Your all-wheel drive can only get you so far on the deep ruts and blown snow, so you find a reasonable spot to park and start the mile hike back to the abandoned family farm.
You grab your small day pack with some water, a Cliff Bar, gloves, eye and ear protection and a baseball hat in case it gets too warm. You have your GoPro too, maybe you can catch some video while you shoot the beautiful lever action rifle.
Your buddy pulls out the rifle, 500 rounds of .22 mag ammo, a water bottle and an apple for the hike back. Realizing he left his first aid kit at home, your friend asks you if you keep kit in your car. "You know, we are shooting, it kinda makes sense to have it.” You reach behind the pile of dirty clothes in the back of your SUV and pull out a beat up, plastic first aid kit your Aunt gave you when you got your first car. You toss it to him and he stows it in his bag...
...first aid kit, check.
The Accident - A Slip and Fall on the Frozen Creek
The walk down the driveway is easy, the sun is high and warm, and you begin to recount all the times you’ve been to the old farm together. A few minutes later, your friend begins to lose his balance. You must have gotten to the frozen creek that crosses the driveway, now hidden under the snow. The first slip is comical. You both laugh at the near miss as he rights himself and takes another step. The second slip is catastrophic. Both feet erupt from underneath him simultaneously, the rifle disappears into the deeper snow alongside the driveway, and he careens off the ice and into a small rock outcropping where the creek meets the side of the driveway.
Your friend is unconscious in the snow, a small trickle of blood is coming from the side of his head, and you realize you are the only one who can help for miles and miles.
What Would You Do?
Panic begins to set in, and questions run through your mind. Do you grab for your phone or rush to your friend first? Do you move him or make him stay still? How long will it take the ambulance to get to you here? What if he’s dead?
These are all reasonable questions. You opt to reach for your phone as you approach your friend. One bar of signal strength, but the call to 911 goes through. She says that help is on the way, but won’t tell you how long it’s going to take. She offers to start on the line with you when you notice your friend start moving. The instant feeling of relief, as you thought he was waking up, turns to complete terror as you watch uncontrolled twitching and shaking envelop his body as the seizure grips him. You accidentally disconnect the call as you reach towards him, but pause...do I hold him down? Should I put something in his mouth? You look at your phone and see "No Service” across the top.
What Should You Do? Advice to Help Your Friend Survive
You know you gave a good description of the location, so help will be coming, but what should you do while you wait? Take a deep breath, and assess your options.
Seizures following serious head injuries aren’t uncommon. Your friend has hit his head hard enough to lose consciousness, and suffering some nervous system overload while the brain attempts to "reboot” itself can expected.
Holding him down or trying to put something in his mouth are dangerous for both you and him. Most seizures are short lived and stop on their own. Allowing the seizure to happen and keeping him clear of hard objects (slide him or the objects out of range) are the best plan.
As soon as possible, an airway and breathing assessment are critical if you’re going to prevent brain damage from lack of oxygen. Life-threatening external bleeding (blood you can see from a head wound) isn’t likely, but a fall like this means a skull fracture is possible. Carefully manipulating the head and neck to assess breathing is important. Most of what we know about cervical spine (neck) fractures has changed. We still need to be careful, and protect the neck of an unconscious trauma victim, but if a fracture occurred during the fall, its impacts are going to be there regardless of how careful we are after the fact.
If your friend doesn’t wake up on his own, don’t discount that he’s on the ground and IT’S VERY COLD! Use a jacket, or better yet, an emergency blanket to keep him warm and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
What About That First Aid Kit?
I knew someone would remember the little, plastic first aid kit. What’s going to be in that box? Band aids, 2”x2” pieces of sterile gauze, maybe an ice pack and a pair of gloves, a finger splint, some Afterbite? The average EMS response is 15 minutes. To a location like this, I would expect 20-30 minutes at a minimum. An emergency like this, depending on the geographic region, could also include a helicopter response. Is there anything in that basic first aid kit that will helpful here? Do you have the knowledge to manage an unconscious adult male who experienced seizure activity following a closed head injury?
Those of us who travel away from the safety afforded by civilized infrastructure tend to be self-reliant by nature. If you don’t have the answers to the questions above, but intend to go off the beaten path, you are taking unnecessary risks. Our advice? Get ready for the unexpected with a trauma kit.
Learn how to manage the medical emergencies included in this scenario:
How to see if someone is breathing: Airway Assessment
How to stop bleeding from a head wound: QuickClot
Mobilize Rescue System was created to provide all the knowledge you need, right on your phone and will never need cellular connection or WiFi to work. The equipment necessary to stop any bleeding from a head injury is compactly stored in a pouch even smaller than your plastic first aid kit.
Learn more about the Mobilize Rescue app and how you can prepare to save lives should the unthinkable happen: www.MobilizeRescue.com.