Carry Your Finger in Your Own Water Bottle

View to Lake Norman (North Carolina) from the Welcome Center.

Learning has been described as a "taught and caught" exercise. I'm not sure what this means, but I find consolation in the fact that most professionals don't know either. What I do know is that learners often capture lessons never intended.

Take for example my recent experience in a Wilderness First Aid course (read this post before continuing). We had some very talented instructors. But in hindsight I now find myself wondering how many lessons were taught, caught, or just dropped.

Consider these eight take-aways.

A Woofa instructor applies a little realism to the scene.

1. Checklists are good.

Completing 16 hours of classroom work in a weekend comes close to dumping the truck. With so much information in the air, it is easy for details to be lost. Clever teachers use little tricks to help students remember. Our teachers liked checklists: A-B-C-D-E, 1-2-3-4-5, R-I-C-E. And they worked. 

2. Acronyms are cool, but must be carefully chosen and rolled out slowly.

I had a harder time mastering acronyms. Some of the more memorable ones included

LOR = Level of Response. "We have trouble here captain, his LOR is slow and disoriented." 

MOI = Mechanism of injury. "The falling tree limb knocked him in the head. It was the MOI."

SOB = Shortness of Breath.  "Come help me! I've got an SOB over here."

3. WOOFATS (my own acronym for Woofa TeacherS) have a special vocabulary.

Every discipline has it codes and words, but special vocabulary was the MOI for me. Eventually, I began to catch on and now I know I must practice it to keep it alive. I hope my friends will pardon me as I attempt to slip some new words into future conversations. Among the most lovely to try the on the elevator are

Crepitus = "Listen to my crepitus when I bend over." 

Anaphylaxis = "Has your throat swelled shut? Pronounce the word 'anaphylaxis' for me."

Umbles = "I think this guy is frozen with all the umbles: he fumbles, stumbles, and mumbles."

I saw an orange stabbed, sliced, skinned, and mutilated.

4. Fruit makes a really good patient.

While in training I saw some of the most horrible things imaginable happen to an orange. And it never flinched. Tomatoes work pretty good too, I understand, especially when talking about how your skin freezes and thaws. I must admit however, that half way through the skin lesson I found myself drifting to other questions like, is a tomato really a fruit?

Incidentally, I learned that is important to differentiate between a patient and a victim. "A patient is not a victim unless you kick him" (Brett). The orange pictured above is a victim.

5. Licking fake blood is gross. It just is.

Please don't lick your fingers, Brett.

Yours truly, all concussed-like.

6. Medical people talk more about pee and poop than archaeologists.

I found this pretty amazing because archaeologists spend an inordinate amount of time talking about pee and poop. Medical people do too. In addition, medical people talk about vomit. Archaeologists vomit, but we don't talk about it. We have limits.

7. You can be impaled in your eye.

You can. But it is always wrong.

8. Carry your finger in your own water bottle.

This takeaway may not sound as useful as the others, but for wilderness professionals, this is BCP (best common practice). Imagine if you were three days down the trail and accidentally chopped off your finger. What would you do (after you stopped running in circles shrieking wildly, of course)? The answer is: go pick up that squirmy little booger and wrap it in a wet bandage. Then tuck it the package into a ziplock baggie and drop the baggie in your water bottle (ice would be preferred of course, but where do you find cherry Slurpees in the backcountry?).

No silly. That is a carrot is my water bottle!

After relating this little scenario about the lost finger, Brett smiled and asked, "Now, who carries the waterbottle?"

The Woofas muttered among themselves, in search of the answer.

Before we had one, Brett blurted out, "The guy whose finger it is. He carries it." Then Brett paused and continued in a quiet voice. "Now why is that?"

(more mumbling.)

"So the finger and the hand it belongs to end up at the same hospital."

I was relieved. I was afraid somebody was going to have to drink it.

Got the sticker!