BONNERS FERRY — Owner Jason Luthy of Longleaf Wilderness Medicine came to Boundary County on Feb. 24-25 to put on a two day Wilderness First Aid, organized by Hall Mountain Volunteer Firefighter Sandy Steinhagen.
Longleaf was originally started in 2010 was started in response to Hurricane Katrina.
“After Hurricane Katrina a physician from the southeast got in touch with me about starting a program to increase coastal resiliency,” said Luthy.
The Wilderness First Aid classes are designed for individuals who may be responsible for medical care of people in a wilderness type setting. It is also for individuals who may have jobs in remote settings or people who spend time in the outdoors, like hikers, boaters, and more.
“The course is also for medical professionals seeking ways to apply their skills outside of the clinic setting,” states the Longleaf Wilderness Medicine website, “as well as people who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters whose aftermath may delay emergency response.”
“I feel like people walk out of the classroom are feeling more prepared for responding to emergencies they might see, whether it be on a backpacking trip or a car accident that they come into just driving down the road,” said Luthy.
“The inspiration for putting this on was that I wanted to get all of our firefighters to the same base level so that we can build on that and we can practice these skills,” explained Steinhagen. “In the country that we live in, in Boundary County, these are the skills that are more applicable to where we live. No matter where we are at in the county, we are likely going to have a slower response from the ambulance because of geography, than if we were in town.”
The intensive two day course covered patient assessment, providing long-term care with limited resources, the decision of when to call for more help, and treatments such as splinting, wound care, and the managing of spinal injuries. They alternated between inside classes, as well as outside, hands-on instruction and scenarios.
“We come out and we find a patient on the ground,” said Steinhagen. “It is really fun. It is really, really hands on. He uses makeup and gooey scars.”
Longleaf Wilderness Medicine Instructor Robb Talbott has been teaching for Longleaf for about a year. He is also a ski patroller for Schweitzer Mountain Resort with 11 years experience, as well as being a high school government history teacher, off and on, for about a decade.
“This is a great combination of two passions of mine, so that is what spurred me into this,” said Talbott. “The gratification of knowing that people are more confident to go out and do the things that they enjoy doing, whether it is out in the woods, or driving down the road and being in a position to help somebody. Just being a part of that is very empowering.”
Among the 26 attendees were representatives from Hall Mountain Fire and the Hall Mountain Volunteer Fire Association Ladies Auxiliary, the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office, Boundary Search and Dive Rescue, as well as some of Steinhagen’s neighbors that jumped at the opportunity when some positions became available.
Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer took the class as a refresher course, having taken it two years ago.
“I knew the instructor. I knew the benefit of what they are teaching,” said Kramer. “It is a skill set that if you don’t practice or use it, you can lose it or be a little rusty, so it helps reinforce that.”
“I think it is important, because we are usually involved with search and rescue and we are in the backcountry a lot too, so the skills we learn here can help us, and others we encounter when we are in situations where medical care is going to be delayed in getting to where we are at,” explained Kramer. “It is improving our skill set and what we can offer for our own safety and others safety.”
“It is very hard to sum up 16 hours of crammed training, but the Initial scene Size up and Assessment Guide they listed, the ABCDE, was the most profound for me,” explained Hall Mountain Volunteer Fire Association Ladies Auxiliary Justine Williams. “This is the starting point of being able to help someone in need. The guidelines are simple but life saving steps I did learn.”
The weather on the second day brought a chilly mix of snow and rain. The students were well prepared, with a wide variety of winter gear utilized for the outdoor portions of the class.
“The weather was really cooperative,” remarked Steinhagen, “because it is easy to treat a patient when all the conditions are perfect, and it is a whole lot harder to treat a patient when you are outdoors and the weather is awful, because you need to think about how to protect the patient from the environment.”
The students then proceeded to learn how to treat a patient with hypothermia, by layering them and wrapping in a tarp. There was a brief competition as to with team could bundle their patient the quickest.
“You are fatigued, you’re tired, you’re lethargic. You are a little nauseated,” Luthy told one of the students during another outdoor session. Six students stood around him while the rest went inside. He proceeded to give the six men different symptoms, instructing them how to act and how to respond to questions. They would then be used as practice for the remaining students.
The interaction between the instructors and students was informative and enthusiastic with an open dialog of questions and answers throughout the two day course.
The students and instructors enjoyed warm meals between their outdoor excursions. Steinhagen made homemade cinnamon rolls for both mornings, Elizabeth Sloot made stew on Saturday, and chili was provided by Cliff Kramer of Feist Creek, served with cornbread baked by Carol Martin. Hall Mountain Volunteer Fire Association Ladies Auxiliary coordinated and served meals
Two days of hard work has made our community one step safer.
For more information about Longleaf Wilderness Medice: www.longleafmedical.com