'That Darn Hole in My Leg'
Every Search and Rescue mission is unique and you head out the door with a loaded backpack and sometimes, an unsettled feeling. Will we be helping an injured hiker, looking for a lost hunter, recovering a body or....a number of other situations that could be life or death or simple first aid.
This story involves a hiker who had badly injured his leg, on a hike on Gavan Hill. Sitka (Alaska) Mountain Rescue had been called to assist in his safe rescue down the mountain. The Sitka Coast Guard was also involved in transporting the injured hiker to the hospital.
Transporting the hiker to an area that a helicopter could drop a litter
This tale would also involve me, and the rescue that almost happened. More about that later. I did a blog about my year with Sitka Mountain Rescue (and this rescue):
The rescue crew headed up the Gavan Hill trail. It is a steep, gnarly trail that is well decorated with roots, rocks, steps, stair cases, and ruts, lacking the traditional dirt trail element that is found elsewhere.
The hiker was doing ok, just needed extra assistance since he had torn a meniscus on the way down. Luckily, he was at the edge of cell phone coverage into town and Sitka Mountain Rescue.
Sitka Coast Guard - Photo by Bill Greer
A Sitka Coast Guard helicopter would be called in due to the difficult trail condition for a carry out. The rescue group carried him in a litter, to an area that was barely wide enough for the basket drop from the helicopter, whirling above.
Photo by the Sitka Coast Guard
I walked ahead of the wheeled procession to get to the next technical area, where I could help with the maneuver. I took a route to the right, off the trail and made my way............hmmm something just entered into my leg. It did not hurt, but I was
a little perplexed at what had just happened.
My initial thought was that I had just brushed against something. I never saw what, exactly, had entered my leg but it had cleanly made a jagged path into and out of my calf.
Eyes now focused on my leg, I took a breath and took in the current situation. Well, lucky me, I was a few feet from a group of Search and Rescue personnel.
Oddly, my leg did not hurt and was not bleeding, much. I was probably centimeters from having something cut, torn or punctured. Extra duty by someone on the team and I had a nicely wrapped leg and would not need the helicopter to make a 2nd trip.
We discussed Dave's 'situation' and I gave a thumbs up on hiking down the mountain and making my way to a hospital.
The team on Gavan Hill was not large enough to send a person down with me. They were needed in a more serious rescue effort.
"Are you sure you are ok with hiking down, by yourself?"
"Why yes". I believe I was asked in different ways as to my ability to have a lovely hole in my leg, and do a prolonged hike to actual safety.
"Of course, no problem" or something like that was my follow-up response.
I was handed a 2-way radio and I assured myself that my body could be picked up on the way down if I had 'issues'.
I had a contact when I reached the trail head and my own ambulance service to zoom to the hospital. Trina, would be my rescue, transportation and would provide some humor along my interesting course that I was now on.
I gave Trina a call once I reached the trail parking lot. I would not have been surprised if she had nonchalantly asked if I would like her to take care of a parking lot surgery. A short time later, in life, she would be helping take out clients on fishing and hunting trips in the rugged Alaskan back country. This would include mountain goats, brown bear and I could only guess on bagging a possible Sasquatch.
She would also be one the only person I have heard of to sit in on a surgical procedure and snap photos. This story just keeps getting more interesting! I would find myself laughing, while looking down on a horrifying gash across my calf that looked like I would have an incredible tale to tell. Nope, just dumb luck walking into branch/stick.
I had a single request of the doctor stitching me together. "Doc, I have a major trail race in 6 days and I am crazy enough to run it". His answer would turn the 'like' into a 'plan'. He strapped that wound with expertise and an extra knot or 2 and I did run the Alpine Adventure Run. Up the same Gavan Hill I had just limped down. I was incredibly fortunate. I could be writing a story with a far different ending.