Wilderness First Responders at Your Service!

Mar 20, 2024 | Hanna Draddy Pautler

Two weeks ago, our year round staff at CKC had the opportunity to take a Wilderness First Responder class with Sierra Rescue, a wilderness medical educational institute. One of our friends over at Camp Carolina who is a Wilderness EMT, Wilderness First Responder, and certified by Sierra Rescue spent eight days teaching us how to care for injuries in a wilderness setting. This 70 hour course was spent entirely outdoors rain or shine, hot or cold. Throughout this course, we not only gained skills, knowledge and confidence in a new field, but we also learned and proved to ourselves that we can stick with it when the going gets uncomfortable. 

Taking an intensive class was like a blast to the past and so much fun. For the first time in 5 years, I had to be in a classroom setting all day then go home, study and complete homework. Homework looks different being married. It is much more enjoyable!

During the course, our days began with a quiz and the turning in of our homework from the night before. After the quiz, we learned about the next few chapters from the wilderness first responder textbook and watched demonstrations on how to properly apply our knowledge. These skills ranged from identifying symptoms to diagnosing medical conditions to applying pressure bandages for serious bleeds and lots more. After learning a new skill, we’d break into teams of 2 or 3, with each of us playing the part of the patient, the primary responder and the secondary responder, respectively. We focused heavily on scenarios with different injuries everyday to get hands-on experience and prepare us for the practical exam. Test taking has never been my forte and I was dreading the exam for the entire duration of the class. Two days before the exams, we performed a night scenario which was as real as it can get. A group of seven of us had to rescue three other members of our group who needed help. We had to locate them deep in the woods, assess and treat each patient, monitor vitals and keep them as comfortable as possible, determine who was a priority to evacuate first, and finally perform an evacuation. During the evacuation we hiked each patient out on a stretcher and met the “helicopter” (we had marked a landing pad by using our headlamps). This was not only a hard test of skills and knowledge in a fast paced environment, but it was also physically and emotionally challenging. 

Personally, this course challenged my emotional strength and helped me work through a lot of fears that I have come to realize have been holding me back in some areas. I learned with new force that I can do tough things and that it is important to face those fears head on and to not avoid them. I showed myself that even with some anxiety about testing my knowledge, I know more than my fears make me believe and feel at times. How cool! This course started off as something I did not want to do because I thought I could go through life just fine without this certification. But I was not willing to quit. I wanted to push myself and prove to myself that fear is not something that gets to control my life. I am strong and capable and learned that I can take something I am afraid of and turn it into a strength. I’m so grateful to grow in these skills and to be surrounded by a team at CKC that is excited to continually learn and grow on so many levels.