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.