Rescue Practice

I seemed the logical choice for casualty in this years Rescue Practice. With a shoulder injury which is limiting my caving and climbing this term, how could I do other than to volunteer to be tied to the stretcher.

As we drove to Wales I learnt more of Jo's uncomfortable time last year and began to think that maybe I should have cried off completely and stayed at home. But it was decided and on Saturday morning Gavin and I headed off to the chosen cave while the others were still at Dudley's. You are probably thinking 'keen fools, they should have had a cup of tea while they waited in the warmth of the cottage!', and in retrospect I would heartily agree. But at the time it seemed like a good idea to set off ahead of the rescue team and set up the accident.

Having rigged a ladder a short distance the wrong side of a squeeze we sat and waited. And waited some more and then some more. After two hours of sitting in this cold cavern I finally heard approaching rumbles and positioned myself in a pained position under the ladder.

Role playing is not on my top-ten list of favourite activities, however I did my best to fake the necessary injuries. Once I was tied into the stretcher it was harder to tell a difference between the role and reality. Despite the fact that I was not injured I was totally dependent upon everyone. I could not move to keep myself warm, scratch my nose or take my inhaler. Everybody was very professional the entire time. I was kept warm and consoled, with at least one person allocated purely to talk to me. The team work and individual initiative was impressive. The goggles that were put on me were definitely appreciated. On the two brief occasions that I wasn't wearing them I got grit and water in my eyes. Jo was quick to pick up on the fact that I was being continually blinded by full beam lights in my face and issued instructions accordingly. Also, Lev provided me with a torch, remembering from his own experience what it was like, to enable me to see something of what was happening.

Everyone was particularly supportive as I was pushed, pulled and dragged through the squeeze. Going through squeezes can be intimidating enough when you are fully mobile and in control, but when you are paralysed and totally inflexible on a stretcher it is very different and so much worse. I can think of no situation where you are even get close to that level of dependence and need for the support of your friends.

Being rescued was a very enlightening experience for me. It made me aware of the realities of a caving accident, an issue that I have tried to avoid thinking about. But it also inspired me with confidence in the competence and commitment of my fellow cavers.

Although I would gladly volunteer to be cuddled and fussed over again next year, I do genuinely feel that it is an experience that everyone should have. It gives a deep insight into the needs of the injured party and this experience would help to make a real rescue that little bit less horrendous.