Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When you jack up your ankle, please do it at sea level.

So there I was working at one of our local outdoor recreational areas. It has been a somewhat slow day so my partner left early. As I am driving around I am thinking of what kind of stuff might happen later in the day. Would we get lucky and have a nice trauma call, or maybe get to respond to something in one of the off-roading areas. Maybe I'll even get to turn my lights on today. No, Not so much...

So while I am driving I hear "We're getting a report of an injury, a hiker with a broken ankle stuck on a cliff over the Lake" come over the radio. "Ummm" I think, " a broken ankle, that could be cool". Then I realize that they said "cliff". Cliff's are pointy, and tall, and to make this even more concerning, there was water under this particular one. I right then made the quick decision that I am not going anywhere near this frigging cliff. So I get on the radio and let them know, what I said was "Medic 51, show me responding". What I wanted to say was "Medic 51, I am gonna go get a burger and an icy cold Coke, let me know when they get this patient closer to sea level".

Now just a point of clarification here, since this is my first post relating to any kind of story. My call sign is not Medic 51. I changed it to protect the ignorant. However 51 is a really cool number, and I wanted to put in a little reference to Johnny and Roy, and if you don't know Johnny and Roy, your need to check out and look up "Emergency".

So anyway, after a short drive I show up to see two cops beat me there. There talking with the patients family members to get some information and find out whats going on. So as it turns out this 50 year old guy decided to go hiking with the family. And he decided, that like many other things in life, his trip would be made better by consuming massive quantities of alcohol.

So here's the run down so far. A drunk guy, with a bad ankle, on a cliff. A big, pointy, tall, hot, sharp cliff.

And to put me at ease, he isn't on top of a cliff strictly speaking. He was just on top of a tall hill, or depending on how you look at it, a small mountain. Our plan so far is to tell this guy to stop moving, sit down, and wait for the helicopter to pick him up. We figure by the time we got to him he had been up there with no water, and this ankle injury for at least an hour and a half. The sooner we got this drunk dude to sit down and get the helicopter to him we could get him to me. All the while I will be sitting in my comfortably air conditioned truck listening to music and drinking an ice cold Coke Zero.

As the helicopter is on the way we keep watching this guy. He won't stay still. This a problem because we are going to be putting a helicopter up there. Helicopters are dangerous things. They have spinning rotors that throw little bits of rocks, dirt, cactus, and other such hard pointy things around. Add in the fact that the sun is going down and the situation sucks even more.

While all this is going on one of the cops on scene looks at me and says "You got your hiking boots on?" I reply "shit". I put together a some supplies in my Camelback and get ready to go. Obviously this guy I started hiking with is an experienced desert hiker, and I am not. And I would also like to personally thank the guy who decided to put a barb wire fence in the middle of nowhere. It was rather comical listening to the radio chatter of the units on the ground. Stuff like "we might need the helicopter for the medic". I will admit that the cop I was hiking with was a good 100 yards ahead of me. But in all fairness, I don't hike, the atmosphere was getting thinner, and I think he was levitating...

Once we finally do get to the top we see our patient. Well actually we smell our patient, then we see him. He is a late 40's male, with a history of substance abuse, and drunk. His ankle is pretty swollen, and the foot looks a bit cyanotic, but otherwise fine. He was a bit hypertensive, but frankly so was I.

About ten minutes after we get to the top of the hill the helicopter shows up. This is a police helicopter that can deliver the patient to the ambulance waiting on the ground. I can't explain how excited I was to not have to hike down that mountain, but rather have a ride down with a helicopter. That didn't turn out to be the case though. For about 15 minutes the helicopter couldn't find a good place to set down. While it was moving around and hovering looking for a landing zone we were being pelted with small rocks and assorted other desert lifeforms. Although I do have to say, looking up to see a helicopter shifting side to side 20 feet above your head is quite the eerie experience.

Eventually they do find a place to set one skid down. ONE skid, the other one was kind of hanging off the edge of a rock face. Suddenly I decided that I wasn't so excited about a helicopter ride. Fortunately for me, they told us to hike back down, unfortunately for me, they told us to hike back down. The trip down wasn't quite as bad. It was pretty dark, but our pilot was nice enough to fly back around and light the area up for us. Once again, thanks for that barb wire fence.


  1. Mark, do I need to buy you a LED head lamp? Nice reference to Johnny and Roy! Is this with #### you're doing this work? Matt Weiland.

  2. Yeah. I had to edit out the agency name due to policies and such, but thats the group.

    And I did have a head lamp, but I learned quickly it doesn't do much good sitting my truck when hiking downhill in the dark...