Friday, February 11, 2011

It's around the corner - Are you ready?

If you are a "It will never happen to me" person, than you have two choices.  You can leave this blog, because it's obviously not for you, and go find the website meant for people like you called "Nothing tragic will ever happen to me".  Or you can read on and realize that preparation and a healthy dose of reality could save your life or the life of your best friend.

It's no secret that every year 100's of snowmobile collisions occur on Ontario's beautiful and seemingly never ending trail system.  Some of these collisions end in tragedy with the loss of life.

While spending the last two days re qualifying on my organizations snowmobiles it struck me how absolutely exhilarating and peaceful snowmobiling can be.  It also struck me that anything exhilarating in life comes with great risk.

Last week the Ontario snowmobile world lost an outdoor enthusiast on its trails.  His accident begs the question "Are you ready?".

Picture it...

You have been desperately counting down the days until you and your best buddy Jim set out on your annual boys only 5 day snowmobile excursion.  You have planned every last detail about the trails you'll ride, the gas stations and restaurants you'll use and where you'll lay your exhausted head at night.

You're a smart guy so you've made a travel itinerary for your wife and promised that you'll call each night when you arrive at the hotel.  You also told her that should she not hear from you on any night after 2300 hrs that she is to contact the police.

You have packed cellphones with chargers and GPS' with extra batteries.  You're all set.

As you set out on your first day everything goes as planned.  You make it to your destination without a hiccup.  250 kms from your starting point.  You contact your wife and tell her how your day went and that you'll talk to her around the same time tomorrow night.

As you venture off for day two your plan is to ride a full 300 kms.  You're travelling in your normal lineup with Jim navigating in the lead and you're the rear marker.  You are approx. 180 kms into your trip and you haven't seen another soul.  It's great.  The trail has been all yours.

Travelling with roughly 100 metres between each of you, you enter a winding stretch of beautiful tree lined trail.  As you exit the first corner you are awoken from your glory to the unmistakable sight of a snow cloud filled with flying pieces of snowmobiles.

As your heart races and you stop your machine, the snow cloud clears and what you see next rocks you to your core.  There is absolute destruction everywhere.  Two snowmobiles absolutely destroyed with chunks scattered all over the trail and hanging from the trees.  You jump off your machine and run to where you see Jim.  He's lying face down with both his legs in positions you know not to be normal.  You call to him and you hear him moaning.

As you kneel down beside him you see the pool of blood coming from his helmet.  As you sit there speechless Jim tells you "I can't feel anything."

You are overwhelmed by fear. You run quickly and check on the other operator who you locate wedged in a tree.  Deceased.

Armed with your basic First Aid and CPR course you realize how extremely unprepared you are for this medical nightmare.  You know that you shouldn't move Jim because he might have serious back and neck injuries that could be made worse by moving him.  However you also realize that without immediate medical help Jim is in serious trouble.

As you're talking to Jim trying to reassure him, you see him fall into unconsciousness.  Your heart sinks.  You know that as Jim's body and heart slows down due to the shock that has rendered him unconscious his body temperature will drop and hypothermia will surely set in shortly.  With hypothermia the body will stop pumping blood to the extremities and keep it close to the core to save the heart.  Without oxygenated blood flowing to the legs Jim will surely suffer severe frostbite and eventual loss of limbs.

Your body is starting to cool.  You feel a chill rush over you.  You realize that you are sweating.  You quickly search your gear for your cellphone.  You turn it on and you receive the dreaded "NO SERVICE" message. 

It's noon.  You have no cellphone.  You have not seen another soul on the trails.  You're nowhere near the next pit stop.  Your wife is not expecting to hear from you for the next 11 hours.

What do you do now.  Do you leave Jim and ride for help? Do you load Jim up and travel knowing that his safety could be in jeopardy?

You have a moment of regret.  Earlier that month you had the opportunity to attend a winter survival and wilderness first aid course offered through your snowmobile association.  Time stands still and you re-live the conversation that you had with Jim about it.  "Why would I spend money on that crap. I've never seen a trail emergency. That's money I could spend on new gear."

While paralyzed by fear and emotion Jim lies there.  His wife and his beautiful children are at home unaware of the pain and serious life threatening situation that their loving husband and amazing father is in.  How will you explain it to them.  How will you live with yourself.

Graphic and real.  If you have never seen tragedy up close, let me assure you that it is not anything like you see in movies or TV.  Real tragedy is the most horrific, traumatic experience that your body and mind will ever go through.  Do not think that you will miraculously pull amazing medical abilities from your arse in a time of tragedy. 

Without some training and a plan you will freeze, you will panic and you will most likely fail.

Spend the money, invest the time and travel armed with the knowledge, skills and mindset necessary to react and control chaos.

It's around the corner - Are you ready?...

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