Ready. Set. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
I hope your brain pronounced that Go, with a long O as opposed to Goo. Otherwise, this could get messy.
GrammaJ is returning tomorrow. Or at least she's supposed to be. She's having so much fun with her friend's in South Carolina that she may never return!
Either way, it's been two weeks since I went on my Search and Rescue training, so it's definitely time for me to report in to my faithful readers (and may God richly bless all THREE of you!).
As I alluded to in previous posts, I left my family on Friday. I went over to spend an hour with GrammaJ for a cup of tea and a stream of instructions for cat care and then I headed south to Annie Oakley's house for a nice homemade supper before our exciting trek to the mountains.
I felt a bit insecure in my packing. Had I brought too little? Too much? Too many wussy extras that would make me a laughing stock of the crew we were training with? But watching AnnieO scoot around her house anxiously doing all her packing at the literal very last minute set my mind at ease. After all, I had spent 2 weeks poring over my packing list weeding, refining and perfecting my gear. AnnieO was basically tossing items pell mell into the back of her truck. I was going to be fine. JUST fine.
We had a great drive on winding backroads through rural Maine until we got to Bog Brook Training Camp (it's a Maine National Guard training facility) near Bethel. We'd had a fun and crazy 2 hour ride with AnnieO and her 17 year-old daughter, Lexi. However, as we turned into the camp my anxiety returned. In truth, I had next to no idea who the other folks there were or what we were going to be doing. It was a big adventure into the unknown!
I wasn't totally reassured by my first impressions of the team. We met several men and one lady from Maine Task Force One in the kitchen. Each person had a medical background, ranging from EMTs to nurses to PAs. (Can you say intimidation? You can if your only medical training is basic first aid!) Everyone was hanging out there to chat and drink beer and admire AnnieO's incredible fur gloves. We're not talking Lady Highbrow gloves here. We're talking I-shot-these-beasts-and-made-them-into-warm-and-rugged-handwear-all-by-my-lonesome gloves. No, I was NOT kidding in previous posts when I referred to AnnieO as a redneck!!
IMPORTANT NOTE: I told you I didn't have much time and I didn't. Couple that with the fact that I am a groovy but painfully sloooooow blogger and you won't be surprised to know that that is all I wrote last Friday before a powerful tornado sucked me away from my desk and flung me into a swirling vortex of busy-ness (Busy-ness that included 4 preteens and free ice cream at Gifford's!).
I am back now, but so is GrammaJ and in the true spirit of mediocrity, my blogging plot is drifting very, VERY wide.
After a bit of yacking and snacking and more imbibing of beer, (AnnieO and Lexi and I abstained. I did wonder if some of the other participants were going to feel, um, energetic the following morning. To their credit, no one drank to the point of jerkdom and they all were alert and professional during the training sessions.) we all went our separate ways to our bunkhouses. Now I've stayed in many camp bunkhouses before and usually the mattresses were mildewy (or plasticky) or lumpy and nasty. The bunks were squeaky and the heat, if it even existed, was spotty. Not so in this government camp. The bunks were quiet and clean (CLEAN!) and actually comfortable. The heat worked perfectly and there were lockers for each bed. The only drawback was that the showerhouse/bathroom (also fairly pleasant, with wonderfully hot water and decent showerheads) was quite a hike down the extremely icy road. No problem though. We ladies just used "Nature's Potty" out the back door.
I know: TMI!
Of course, I was so hyped up I couldn't sleep, but it certainly wasn't due to discomfort.
The next morning we ate a fabulous breakfast of eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and more before our first classroom session on Map & Compass. Then came the fun part, using our newly acquired knowledge to find various markers in the woods surrounding the camp. We broke into teams and each team got a map and an assignment of 4 waypoints to locate using the compass. I was the only newbie on our team, but the folks were great about guiding me and helping me and, yes, even let me screw up occasionally. It was wonderful fun!
However, it took a good couple of hours and we were covering alot of varying terrain. Most of the snow was gone at home, but it was still pretty deep in Bethel, so we were sinking and sliding a bit. We also had several stream crossings and steep hills to scramble up and scamper down.
Needless to say we were tired and hungry when we got back. Our late lunch included some marvelous sandwiches with wonderful homemade carrot ginger soup. Mmmmmm.
Then we had more class time to learn the basics of GPS. That was mostly a theory class, since we didn't use any GPS out in the field. Next came a class in recognising and treating hypothermia - very useful knowledge for the waters and woods of Maine!
Oh well, enough of sitting in a chair. We all geared up again and snowshoed out to a large open field where we learned how to make ice anchors and how to burrito wrap a hypothermia victim and transport them. Our largest team member ( 280+ pounds!) volunteered to be wrapped, bless his heart. We wrapped him, got a sked (rescue sled) under him, carried him (OYYYYYY! Ouch! Ack! Wow!) to the foot of a steep incline. Hoisted him up with a belay rope and lots of muscle and took turn accidentally sliding all the way down the slope and laughing hysterically whilst crashing into small trees, many of which are now dead. May they rest in peace.
We will not laugh hysterically during an actual rescue. I promise. Snicker maybe. Giggle occasionally. But NEVER laugh.
And finally, we guided him gently back down the slope (Though there were many jovial threats of just letting him sliiiiiiiiiiiiide!) and carried him (OYYYYYY! Ouch! Ack! Wow!) back to our starting point. Then we all collapsed on the ground, sweating and gasping.
This brings me to a very important point: If you are going to get lost or injured in the woods, please go on a diet first. My back and I thank you! Profusely!!
We all stumbled back to camp for an unbelievable supper of roast pork loin, roasted root veggies and salad. And we had been out so long that we ate at 9pm!
We weren't done yet, though. After our yummy meal, they set up three stations and had us count off. Each of our groups went to a different station to practice performing advanced first aid in the dark and c-c-c-cold. Armed with headlamps and many layers of clothing we took turns starting IVs, intubating patients who weren't breathing and splinting injured limbs. My team only consisted of Young Buck and myself, so we had plenty of time to practice. As the only "non-medical" member of the team, I had a blast!
(Fear not, the IVs and intubations were on rubber training dummies.)
We cleaned up our mess and visited a while in the dining hall before hitting the sack. I had no trouble at all sleeping that night, I assure you! (Except for a slight attack of anxiety at 2:30am when I realized that within the hour Mulletman and GrammaJ would be in a car. Together. For a long trip to the airport. I prayed earnestly that there would be no blood and fell back alseep.)
The next day started with another wonderful breakfast followed by a rescue briefing. Apparently 2 researchers has gone hiking the camp trails and never returned home. Our job? Find them, assess and treat them, and transport them back to the truck.
We had been joined by a gal I call Eagle-Eye (That lady can spot a gum wrapper 1/2 a mile away!) and her search dog puppy, Kobuck. Kobuck is nine months old and likes nothing better than to be sent to "Go find your friend!!!" Eagle-Eye, Kobuck and Young Buck went ahead of us all as the "hasty team" to locate the vicitms and provided and initial assessment and treatment. That way they could radio their condition back to us so we'd only haul along the rescue/medical equipment we really needed.
Kobuck was a wonderful worker and found the lost folks much more quickly than we would have found them on our own. But, from that point on it was a long day filled with exhausting physical exertion, mental stress, and tons of creative problem solving. We worked fairly well as team and managed to get the woman researcher out on foot and transported the man (230 pounds) down steep, treacherously slippery slopes (Huzzah for belay ropes!), across some tricky stream crossings (My boots did not leak - Woot!), under obtacles, over obstacles, and around big trees. We slid him, we carried him, and we fell on him (oops).
If we are rescuing you, we will NOT fall on you. I promise. (Giggle. Snicker)
We did have one additional difficulty - - Kobuck. He is an awesome search dog, but he is also a puppy. Once the search was over and we moved into transport mode, he had no "job". So he did what all bored puppies do and GOT INTO TROUBLE! Two of our strongest he-men were hauling the sked with ropes while others of us guiding the sked and provided much needed braking when we went down a grade. What did silly Kobuck do? He kept attacking the shoes and gaiters and snow shoes of our two weary lead guys! Fortunately, they were patient...
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, we got our patients to the truck and drove them to exceptionally cool, inflatable, on-site medic tent which has a fancy and groovy name that I cannot recall.
You'd think that would be the end, but it wasn't. We had to have a debriefing first to discuss what went right and what went wrong. It was especially helpful to get input from our patients! (ie. "Falling on your patient is a bad idea.")
Last of all, we spent 2 hours cleaning up the camp. Pack equipment, mock our Scottish leader's accent :-), sweeeeeeeeeeeep, pack up leftover fabulous food (seriously, the meals were unbelievable!), and mop.
We were some incredibly tired puppies when we crawled back into AnnieO's truck to head back home. She and Lexi and I were just a little (a little?) on the silly side the whole trip.
And thus ends my tale of Search and Rescue for March. Next month I'll hopefully be updating my first aid/CPR certifiication and in May (Oh glorious May!) I'll be training with THE NAVY for Maine Search and Rescue.
That is just SO Groovy!
Next up: The Glorious Tale of GrammaJ and....THE WHEELCHAIR! (What??!!!!)