Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ready or not...

Not very long ago, there was a book published about an expedition to the land of the cold. It seems that a group of climbers got into trouble (true story) and ended up dangling on a line which hung down into a deep ice crevice. In order to save the group, the second last man on the line had to cut the last man loose, almost assuring his demise (he did survive, but that has nothing to do with the point I am making). This may seem like a cruel act, but it was the exactly right thing to do, and the man cut loose agreed when later interviewed. It is not unlike triage during which medical personel leave some to die while focusing resources on those who can be saved.

So, you are going to paddle with a group. It seems like a nice day and looks something like this:

You feel comfy in these conditions, all the more so because you have taken a rescue class that might have looked something like this:

After a while, the wind freshens and the skies darken to look something like this:

It isn't too much longer before the wind is howling and boats are dancing about their moorings, but you cannot see them as you are 2 miles out on the big lake. That's when 3 of the 7 paddlers in your group go over and are out of their boats. You are the only one with rescue training, but you have never done a rescue in such confused seas. To make things worse, one paddler has suffeed a head injury and is comatose, his boat drifitng away. The rest look to you for guidance. Can you save them all and get the group back to a safe harbor? Are you feeling pretty scared just now? Are you prepared, if necessary, to leave the comatose paddler adrift (remember, he is a friend of yours) in order to save the others?

If you have never had to make a life-or-death decision I promise you that, what ever you decide to do, you will replay the scenario over and over in your mind for years to come...and you should. The responsibility is awesome.

So, if you are not prepared to act, if you cannot make such decisions, if you haven't been properly trained under realistic conditions, what the hell are you doing out there?

Paddle safe...I mean it


JohnB said...

. . .and choose your paddling companions wisely.

Great "thought for the day"!

JohnB said...

Reminds me of a photo I saw last evening during my CPR Instructor training--showed two firefighters in turn-out gear performing CPR on a single victim. One was doing chest compressions, the other rescue breathing. Only catch was that there was a gap of about 3 feet between the shoulders and the head, and there wasn't a neck in the gap. I remarked what's the use? The victim is "DRT" (dead right there). Now they were only practicing with a personikin, but the point was that someone needs to make the call that there ain't nothin' that's goin' save that one, so move on.

There comes a time when tough decisions need to be made. Hopefully, most of us never are in that position. However, if you are responsible for the well being of another, or others, you need to be prepared to make the decision to either save your own hide, or that of the many rather than the one. If you are not, you could well be responsible for the injury and/or death of many.

Silbs said...