Treating injuries out in the wilderness

July 2, 2012 2:41:50 PM PDT
To really learn about wilderness medicine, search and rescue, you have to be in the remote wilderness.

So it all began with a 10 hour journey from New York City across the country to Portland, Oregon, then 2 hours of driving into the back country until the road ends and there's no choice but to walk.

The only way to get into the forest preserve is to hike in. I don't know what I got myself into but I'm taking you with me.

We're going inside the Opal Creek Ancient Forest, 35,000 acres of untouched forest. Far from civilization and also far from the nearest hospital.

So it's also a great place to learn about wilderness medicine and rescue.

Dr. Sapna Parikh went to become a Certified Wilderness First Responder, learning how to make emergency medical decisions in remote locations. It's a training course by NOLS, The National Outdoor Leadership School.

"You are 911 there's no button to press that's going to have a herd of people come up and help you. You have limited tools limited options," said Mark Cornwell, Instructor for NOLS.

For most of the course the outdoors was our classroom. We learned how to splint a broken bone with tree branches and clothes, how to fix a dislocated shoulder with rope and water bottles, and how to fix a sprained ankle with nothing but tape.

Then we put every skill to test with full scale disaster simulations in challenging conditions.

But every situation in the wilderness means choosing between options that are all less than ideal-using what you have and hoping for the best.

For more on this story, watch the video above.

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