I was saved by the Mountain Rescue on Sunday. It was all very exciting; I had been out walking with two others when one of them fell from some rocks and ended up with an ice axe through her thigh. In the ensuing chaos I had a heart attack, due to shock, and the other companion had an asthma attack.
OK, it all sounds pretty far fetched but this was a training exercise for Glossop Mountain Rescue Team and a thoroughly good day it was too. I have always had a soft spot for the mountain rescue, I give money out of my wages every month to both the Glossop and Patterdale teams and see it as a kind of insurance policy in case I fall off something pointy one day. Even the best prepared of walkers never knows when they might need these volunteers to come out looking for them and save them from a potentially deadly situation. So, when my friend, Oliver, asked if I would mind being a casualty for them I jumped at the chance. It was all a bit cloak and dagger as all I got was a time to meet and a grid reference but as I would have spent my Sunday out on the moors anyway I thought this would be a change whilst helping out a worthy cause.
Sunday came around and at the correct time and place I met up with some of the lads from the team and the other two victims (sorry, casualties). We were driven up a track and then set off walking to the area where we were to have our “accident”. My word it was cold. Luckily the peat and bogs were all frozen and there were some beautifully frozen waterfalls, they were only about two feet high so no need to get the ice axes out. There were patches of snow in the hollows and the promise of some in the air and a bit of a keen wind too. Pretty soon we were in position and all we could do was wait to be found by our saviours.
I say all we could do was wait but actually we were initially quite busy; Greg and David, who were our two mountain rescue handlers, gave us a bit of a briefing of what we had to do – in my case pretend to have had a heart attack – and got victim number one to wear the mocked up “pole through the leg trousers” complete with lashings of fake blood (apparently the top tip is to buy your fake blood the day after Halloween as its at its cheapest then).
So, we waited. It snowed. We waited some more and it snowed some more too. David made some soup. It got colder and colder, or at least that’s the way it seemed. You see in my haste and excitement I had worn what I usually wear for walking in cold weather, however, this wasn’t walking this was standing around and I was getting chilly. Victim number three, who is a bit of an old hand at being a casualty, put more and more layers on. I didn’t have any more to wear.
We could see the search teams criss-crossing the moors behind us and we could follow their progress on the radios that David and Greg had. We laid around in the snow. I think the fact that it was so cold added a sense of realism to the whole thing for me because when I heard on the radio that we had been spotted and a few minutes later people in red coats started turning up the sense of relief was immense. However, there was no time for sitting back and relaxing now; I had a role to play.
I’m not sure that I was the most convincing heart attack victim that they have ever had but I have to say the boys and girls who rescued us were absolutely amazing. Professional? You bet. The twenty or so rescuers went about their business immediately. Myself and victim number three (the asthma case) were covered over with a large orange shelter and assessed and treated incredibly quickly, we were correctly diagnosed and the appropriate treatments given. It was all recorded with our fake medical histories, symptoms and the medication given written down for when we got to the virtual hospital. The team members had an incredible variety of kit, there was oxygen, morphine, a spray for my non existent angina, you name it then they had it (as well as having carried it over the moors to use it). If I thought they were brilliant with me and the multilayered number three you should have seen how they did with case number one (the one with the pole through the leg). The team were arranged into scribes, runners, medics and others with responsibility for radio communications.
Eventually, victim one was lifted and put on a stretcher to get her back across the moors to the waiting ambulance, not easy when you have a three foot pole sticking out of your thigh. However, lift her they did and then, just so everyone could have a go they reset it and let another bunch of team members do it. And then they were off; across the moors, through heather and peat, over streams and up rocks carrying the stretcher. For exercise purposes I had been flown to hospital in a virtual helicopter (sadly no flight in a chopper for me but then it was only a fake heart attack for which I am grateful) so I walked along with them having a chat with various team members.
When we finally made it back to the waiting ambulance, oh no, victim three had gone into cardiac arrest so the team had to practice resuscitation and using the defibrillator equipment. A detailed debrief followed and then we were free to retire to the pub. It was an absolutely incredible day.
Lessons learned from my trip out with the mountain rescue include; don’t forget to pack extra warm clothing, if you are going to be out on the moors anyway then volunteering to be a casualty is a great way to spend a Sunday and thirdly don’t forget to charge your iPhone (fortunately I was kindly allowed to use photographs taken by the team).
I would just like to remind you all, dear readers, that these are volunteers, regular people who give up their time and energy to try to make sure that we don’t die out on the hills and to pick up the pieces for our loved ones if we do. What an amazing thing to do; so amazing that I have applied to join. I only hope that I can one day be as good as them.
Final thought is that if you can’t commit to joining a mountain rescue team then why not just donate some money? Choose your local one, or the one that covers the area you go walking most or like the best, or, if you can’t decide, just give it to Glossop MRT using the link below (you can even buy GMRT teddy bears, also on a link below).