Sunday, May 29, 2016


Another sweltering Memorial Day weekend with the Cadillac Crew chatting through the slow routine of cleaning up trails and repainting cabins suddenly veered into those times when time matters.

A hiker with an urgent look on his face rushed down the side trail to our work site, stopped on seeing us and called out urgently, "Do you have some water? One of our party collapsed, we think it's heat stroke!"

Everyone stopped work, of course. Did you call 911? No. Well, here's a phone, you're at the Blackburn Trail Center. How far back on the trail? Water, quickly, also a towel to wet and wrap around him. Here, ice. What else? Poles for a stretcher -- over the rock stairs you just climbed down? We'll look for something. Here, some Pedialyte(r), better than Gatorade(r).

The overseer found drivers for a couple of cars that might block ambulance access and redirected them out of the way. One of our Wilderness First Aid certified crew members rushed up the long rocky slope to the Appalachian Trail, carrying supplies along with the messenger from the hiking party.

The road up to the BTC is a tricky climb up a rutted and gravelly dirt track, but the Loudoun County ambulance was prompt enough. I volunteered to lead the EMT's up the slope, half expecting to fade and delay their pace --  but this body has begun to adapt to my new life, and I actually had to slow down a bit so they could keep up.  (Okay, they were each carrying a fair amount of heavy equipment bags, and had been eating a lunch of burgers  and milkshakes. Excuses, excuses ...)

Two trips up the slope later -- and three for our WFA team member -- the patient had a dozen medical techs with him on the ridgeline, and the small parking area at the trail center was jammed with emergency vehicles from the county and the nearest two towns. A helicopter rumbled by above, and the trail center overseer rehydrated the other members of the hiking party with water bottles, sodas, watermelon slices, and fresh chocolate chip cookies. (Sandy may have risen to executive authority in the national ATC, but she still makes a great chocolate chip cookie.)

The patient was hoisted off the rocks at a cliff overlook aand flown away to an emergency room. Informal reports said he was conscious, a good prognosis for escaping  a final payment for his failure to stay hydrated. The firefighters juggled vehicles and got everyone headed back down the dirt road and the hikers thanked everyone profusely before heading on. We went back to work, and celebrated a bit later with our ritual potluck feast.

"All is well, safely rest. God is nigh."

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