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Thread: What woud you have done? two people, one injured

  1. #1
    Member GreginAlaska's Avatar
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    Default What woud you have done? two people, one injured

    A number of years ago my wife broke a vertabre while we were hunting. She ended up riding a 4 wheel 16 miles with a broken back. She would not stay put while I went for help, we had no means of communication. I've always felt bad that she rode that far and I THANK GOD EVERYDAY that she wasn't hurt worse of paralyzed. I'll paste a thing she wrote for a Christain Womens magazine so you can hear it from her side.

    In early September 1997 Greg and I were hunting Caribou off of Alaska's Denali Highway. On the evening of the third we spotted two young caribou laying on a bench about 2 miles past the end of the 4 wheeler trail we were using. We hadn't seen very many caribou so we decided to make a stalk and try to take them. After spooking them once we managed to get in place and took them at the same time. We gutted them and propped open the chest cavity and headed back to camp, we were camping at a parking spot on the Denali highway which was about 16 miles from where we shot the caribou. We planned to come get the caribou the next day as we didn't want to be out in the dark because of the many grizzly bears that roam the area. We were only a couple of miles from camp when we came around a corner and came close to a grizzly that was dragging away the remains of a moose kill. The grizzly didn't like our presence and made a charge at me but he stopped about 30 to 50 feet away and we moved on as fast as possible. We got a good nights sleep and headed back to the kill site about 9:00 am the next morning. When we got to the caribou one of the gut piles had been dragged off, so we quickly cut each caribou in two and loaded them on our 4 wheelers. Greg had bought me a new Suzuki King Quad 4 wheel drive that summer and I had not ridden it much before the trip. Putting the caribou on the racks made the machine top heavy and we had to make it up a mountain that has a series of benches that have 10 to 20 foot drop-offs that you have to work your way around. I was partially side hilling the machine when a front tire hit a small mogul and the machine started to roll to the left, I leaned into it but the machine continued to roll and it rolled over me and then caught my pant leg and slammed me on the ground as it rolled another half turn. I felt something snap in my lower back and the pain was incredible. Greg was by my side and he told me to stay still while he rolled the machine upright. He told me to stay down but i was determined to get up and try to evaluate my injuries. I had a lot of pain in my lower back and was beginning to feel tight through the stomach. Greg told me to stay put while he went for help but there was no way I was letting him leave me alone, covered in blood and dead caribou nearby, in an area with one of the most dense populations of grizzly bears in the state. Greg pointed out that if we wait till somebody missed us and sent a search party it would probably be days or weeks and we would both be dead of exposure by then. (it was getting down to 20 degrees F at night) Greg brought up the idea of dumping the caribou and giving me a ride back to the road but I didn't want to waste the caribou after taking their lives. We finally decided that since I could feel my fingers and toes Greg would help me on to a machine and we would drive out. I tried to focus on Greg's machine, the way you focus to control pain during childbirth, and prayed and sang praise songs to help me make it out of there. We managed to make it to the 4 wheeler trail without any further mishaps where Greg and I stopped to pray for me. The trail to the road follows a small creek bed for a ways and then you have to climb out of the creek bed to continue on. The climb out is about 4 or 5 feet high and very steep, the only way to make it is to hit it hard and ride it out. When we were getting to this point we ran into the only people we saw on the trail that day, A man and his boys helped me up to the trail while Greg got the machines across. They were an answer to prayer as I might have permanently injured myself if I had tried to get the machine over this. We made it back to the road about 5 hours after the accident where we informed the man that owned the parking area about my accident and he offered to take care of the caribou and watch our gear. They helped me into the backseat of our F350 crewcab and we headed towards Tangle Lakes Lodge which had the nearest phone, the lodge is about 35 miles away down a rough dirt road (The Denali Highway). My clothes had gotten wet on the trip out and I was getting cold and very uncomfortable in them, I wanted Greg to stop and help me change but he said lets wait till we get to the lodge and get some help and he turned on the heat. When we made it to the lodge Greg went in to call for help and a doctor had just stopped in to have dinner at the lodge, the doctor came out to the truck and examined me a bit and then went back to call for emergency rescue. He told Greg he suspected a broken pelvis or a lower back injury. He tried to get a helicopter to come get me but the weather was too bad to get one in so they started an ambulance from Glenallen which is 90 miles away. He told us to keep me strapped in the way I was and put a sleeping bag over me to help me keep warm, he didn't want us to change my clothes until I got to the hospital. We headed down the road and met the ambulance about half way to Glenallen, the EMT's put me in the ambulance on a backboard and took me to Glenallen where a fix-winged air ambulance was waiting to take me to a hospital in Anchorage...a 150 mile flight. The air was a bit bumpy that night so the crew put a neck brace on me and strapped my head to the board, this was very uncomfortable but necessary. They inserted an IV and gave me some morphine and I had a mild reaction to it, it made me cold and gave me tremors. When we got to Anchorage they put me in another ambulance and took me to Providence hospital. By the time Greg got to Anchorage (about 4 hours later) they had xrayed most of my body and found that I had broken my L2 vertebrae in 3 places and had crushed the front of it. They did a cat scan and found that nothing had gone into the spinal cord and the bone had remained in place. The doctors were amazed that I had not severed my spinal cord, especially when they found out I had ridden a 4 wheeler 16 miles after I broke the vertebrae. I believe that God was watching over me, especially when you consider that the only people we met on the trail were exactly where we needed them, there was a doctor at the nearest lodge with a phone, I didn't hurt my spinal cord and I didn't even need surgery. The doctors made a plastic brace that I could take off and on, it is held together by 3 large velcro straps. I had to wear the brace for 3 months, as of this writing (January 98) I am completely out of the brace and going to physical therapy, I get sore but I am on the road to full recovery...Praise God.

  2. #2
    Member BucknRut's Avatar
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    Default Incredible story

    Greg, I would have to say that someone was surely watching over your shoulder that day! Thank God she is okay.

    Given the fact that my significant other is, at times, as stubborn as yours was that day, I probably wouldn’t have done much different, given the circumstances. If I were in a similar situation and my mind was thinking as clearly as it is now, rehearsed with the outcome of her injury, I may have done a few things differently. I could not and would not leave her there because the aroma of blood and meat would have been awful inviting to wildlife, which could be and, in my mind, would be more dangerous. Unless, I felt the injury was bad enough that it was worth building a shelter for her.

    After having made that decision, I would have taken precaution to stabilize her as much as possible. Back pain is a serious deal, as you now well know. I would try to make some kind of backboard by lashing some 2”-3” posts together. Roll a piece of clothing up to act as a neck brace/pillow and then lash her to the backboard.

    At this point I would dump the bou and other wheeler. I would graciously pay the fines and I could live with the immorality of wasting an animal, but I would be a lost boy in a lonely world without my wife. (Not a stab at you Greg, I’d probably done as you did. I am just reasoning my justification for leaving the animals.)

    Again, I would be thinking about stabilizing her. Not sure what options would be available for strapping her to the wheeler. If the trail was wide enough, I would tie the backboard to the front rack of my machine (perpendicular). The other thing would be to tie the board to the back rack, her head up towards the front, resting on your head or shoulders and her feet hanging off the back.

    Pray along the way and do my best not to rush out, that’s when accidents happen.

    We all know that hindsite is always easier assessed than forsight. Greg, what was your honest thoughts of the injury at the time? Were your thoughts as bad as the outcome or were you shocked to hear the results of the injury? Just wondering.

    Please wish her the best of luck in her recoveries and God Bless you both.
    Joshua

  3. #3
    Member GreginAlaska's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi Josh, A couple of things, she kind of mellowed out her "stubborness" in the story she wrote, it was rather heated and she made it plain she would ride out after I left or walk out if I took the keys to the 4 wheeler.

    I would have had no problem dumping those bou, it was another heated thing she absolutely refused to do, I guess I could have just forced that issue though.

    We were above timberline and I never even thought of some sort of backboard, I did think of putting her on behind me but that wouldn't work with the bou.

    Oh ya, we stopped and prayed several times along the way.

    We certainly weren't very well prepared for what happened. I always carry at least a tent with me and a sat phone now. (among other things)

    I thought her injuries might have been worse in a way, she complained of her stomach feeling tight and I thought she might have internal injuries. The other thing that made me afraid she might be hurt bad is the fact that she hardly complained during childbirth but she sure let out a scream when the accident happened. We stopped quite often and I would touch the bottom of her legs to make sure she could still feel them...I was way worried. By the time she got in the plane at Glennallen, she was looking pretty bad and I was wondering if it might be the last time I saw her alive. It was an awful feeling.

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    You did well, you got your wife out using what you had to do it with. You have changed the things you carry when you now go out and that is also good. I am happy for you and your family that it turned out well for you. I have had trips that turn south on me and I know how it can be a problem and what you have with you is important. Praying on your way out was the best thing you could have done. Nice
    Last edited by George D; 12-04-2006 at 12:14. Reason: missing words

  5. #5
    Member RMiller's Avatar
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    I am not sure what I would have done.

    BUT IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SAME THING YOU DID.

    Seems to me you made the right choices.
    "You have given out too much reputation in the last 24 hours, try again later".

  6. #6
    Member Bushpilot's Avatar
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    Great story Greg, thanks for sharing.
    I refuse to tiptoe through life, only to arrive safely at death.


    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

    Thomas Jefferson

  7. #7

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    Incredible story. That she survived that without becoming paraplegic couldn't have been luck - Someone up there was watching out for her.

    I think, given your equipment at the time, that moving her out of there was the only choice. In my mind it would've been appropriate to leave the carcasses; a life-threatening injury trumps everything else. Stabilizing the injury with a backboard would've been ideal, but being above the timberline would've made that difficult if not impossible. Cobbling together a brace with a sleeping mat might of worked, but it sounds like you didn't have the gear with you. Riding out might've been the only choice, though going with your first instict and having your wife ride behind you might've been better. Don't know.

    It's hearing stories like this that make me want to learn more about wilderness first aid. I've taken a 2-day course, but taking a Wilderness First Responder course would be better. You might look into it if you have the opportunity.

  8. #8

    Default Spine Immobilization

    Sounds to me like you made very good decisions and the story has a happy ending because of them. There is a device called a KED that is used to immobilize patients prior to extrication from vehicle accidents and such. It was developed for immobilizing race car drivers after accidents.




    It goes on your back and buckles with straps around the torso. I couldn't find a picture of it in action.

    I think that I would have tried to make something like that for immobilization. My internal frame pack has a plastic sheet in it that would work good. Even some sticks verticle along the back with a lot of padding. Then use the straps that were holding the caribou down to secure around the torso. Sounds like she was in a lot of pain though and she might not have tolerated a splint. It probably wouldn't have done too much except remind her to stay still.

    I wasn't there so I don't know what was on hand, but I think that It would be next to impossible to try and improvise full body immobilization and bring the person out 16 miles on an atv. The spine is stronger in vertically than horizontally so I think it would be better to have her sit straight up anyway.

    If she was wet I think I would have tried to get some dry clothes on her, to combat shock. Also make sure she stayed well hydrated.

    It is really easy to read about stuff that happened in the past and say you would have done things differently. Looks like you did a pretty darn good job. If I was in similar circumstances I would wish things went as well. I'll try and pull out my WFR and Wilderness EMT books in the next couple of days and see what they say on immobilization.

    chris
    Last edited by makalutoo; 03-13-2008 at 02:03. Reason: add stuff

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jim mcleary View Post
    Sounds to me like you made very good decisions and the story has a happy ending because of them. There is a device called a KED that is used to immobilize patients prior to extrication from vehicle accidents and such. It was developed for immobilizing race car drivers after accidents.




    It goes on your back and buckles with straps around the torso. I couldn't find a picture of it in action.

    I think that I would have tried to make something like that for immobilization. My internal frame pack has a plastic sheet in it that would work good. Even some sticks verticle along the back with a lot of padding. Then use the straps that were holding the caribou down to secure around the torso. Sounds like she was in a lot of pain though and she might not have tolerated a splint. It probably wouldn't have done too much except remind her to stay still.

    I wasn't there so I don't know what was on hand, but I think that It would be next to impossible to try and improvise full body immobilization and bring the person out 16 miles on an atv. The spine is stronger in vertically than horizontally so I think it would be better to have her sit straight up anyway.

    If she was wet I think I would have tried to get some dry clothes on her, to combat shock. Also make sure she stayed well hydrated.

    It is really easy to read about stuff that happened in the past and say you would have done things differently. Looks like you did a pretty darn good job. If I was in similar circumstances I would wish things went as well. I'll try and pull out my WFR and Wilderness EMT books in the next couple of days and see what they say on immobilization.

    chris

    Glad to hear you wife will have a full recovery. The "KED" works very well. We have one where I work, we train with it as well so we know how to use it if we have too,(hopefully we never will).

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