Dr. Dunlap Presents Practical First Aid

May 22, 2006
By Barb Revere

Without fanfare, the first club meeting in the newly renovated, almost completed lodge, was held on May 22nd. Amid saw horses, table saws, paint cans and drop cloths, the neat rows of folding chairs held a rapt audience of about 40 listening to Obsidian Dr. Larry Dunlap’s practical advice on dealing with accidents that occur in the backcountry.

Through much of his talk, Larry discussed minor problems like abrasions, cuts and blisters: get ‘em clean, keep ‘em clean and watch for developing signs of infection. Larry mentioned ruefully that his own children never brought their abrasions to him because they knew he would really get them clean! He also discussed dislocations — fingers, elbows and shoulders. Lots of pain for your victim, but a few twists and a pop and you’re a miracle worker. Yeah, simple.

Dehydration vs. over-hydration, heart attack vs. heartburn, asthma vs. anaphylaxis vs. breathing obstructions, altitude sickness and diarrhea were other subjects touched on. In his own pack, Larry carries medicines most of us wouldn’t be competent using, but he suggested acetaminofen, naproxen, antacids and possibly aspirin are good for most problems. He finds lots of uses for duct tape: with it you can “buddytape” a broken finger (to the next one over as a splint), protectively tape over developing a blister and repair or jerryrig useful gear. Larry never leaves home with out it.

Note, too, special products are not necessary to wash poison oak resin from the skin. Larry runs the Ridgeline often and showers soon after returning home and this is enough. When he has gotten a rash, very hot showers work to quell the intense itch.

In serious emergencies, such as falls, breathing and heart ailments, the single most important thing to do is to assess the entire situation. “Use all of the people you have with you. . .” and come up with a plan “with at least 75% agreement within the group.” Some important questions to ask are: Is everyone safe? Is it safe to rescue the victim? Can the victim walk out? Who is best suited to go for help? Do you really need outside help? Where exactly, on the map, are you located? Once you have a plan, put it into action. Larry also stressed the importance of considering the entire body of the injured — an arm is broken but how are the legs, the pelvis, the other arm? Is the victim coherent?

Larry’s casual delivery and understated sense of humor were reassuring. We were given common sense advice and much to ponder about our own responses to past and future emergencies.

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