First Aid for the outdoors

Broken JawLast weekend Heley and I had our very own first aid training. We managed to wrangle ourselves a private lesson with a retired first aid instructor. Apparently the St John’s iPhone app and re-runs of House do not count as first aid training.

We chose the lesson over a “First Aid at Work” course because the wilds provide their own distinct problems. Phone signal and conveniently placed hospitals are often a requirement when doing a first aid course. Heley and I won’t always have that luxury. There are parts of the route that for all intents and purposes may as well be marked “here be dragons”. Basically, we’re working on the principle that anything that can possibly go wrong will just so happen to go wrong at the worst possible moment. It’s not paranoia if the hills really are out to get you.

A lot of our questions were based around intense and terrifying emergencies, for example what to do when your shin is neatly aligned at ninety degrees to itself. We asked when to stop and whistle, when to make notes of GPS co-ordinates and go for help, and when to just flail around and panic.

There are other injuries to worry about though. Even minor day-to-day injuries need special attention during a 380 mile walk. A blister on the foot, a cut on the hand, a slight sprain or strain: each can pose a problem along the way. Improper management can easily lead to problems further down the line. Failing to complete the trip because one of us has gangrene would be a tad embarrassing.

The first aid course itself was entertaining. I was declared unofficially dead whilst Heley was putting me in the recovery position; apparently I wasn’t breathing loudly enough. I’m in serious trouble if I lose consciousness at any point during this journey.

On the other hand, Heley is likely to tie her own bandages in future. I had particular problems with the arm slings. It’s not just that my bandaging is untidy, it’s also ineffectual.

Heley feels the cold easily, so we learnt about the risk of her stealing my warmest clothes to prevent hypothermia. I go from white to bright red at only a hint of sun, so Heley may get the chance to pour cold water over my head. I just have to hope she doesn’t choose to hold my head under the water as she clearly has issues recognising whether someone is breathing.

Overall, we learnt a lot and laughed a little more. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to practise a few things before we set off. Even more hopefully we won’t have to use much of what we learnt. The departure date is rapidly approaching and once again we are a little more prepared.