Wilderness First Responder in the making

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been hanging around the Bay Area. I did a contract for my old boss at his new employer, and some other random undirected hanging out I can’t really remember. Oh, I think it involved postponing writing code by taking the dog to the dog park. I’ve also been working on the unread books from my bibliography, including some new ones I found. One is really gripping; it is a memoir of a Canadian nurse who worked for MSF for four years. So much of what she says is familiar to me after all my reading.

To save you the effort of reading all those books, the stories she tells that are repeated time and again in other books are:

  • Feeling overwhelmed and scared for the first week, especially the first hour, when the MSF driver who was supposed to meet her at the airport wasn’t there.
  • Arriving at her posting to find that things have changed and she’s doing a different job than she expected.
  • Noticing and remarking on the beauty of the land in the middle of human cruelty.
  • Mentioning the somewhat uncoordinated, or at least “fiercely independent” nature of the various MSFs.
  • Trouble at checkpoints, culminating in getting thrown in jail for a few hours.
  • Feeling guilt and loss when leaving a mission, and wondering what happened to national staff who simply disappeared when the fighting in their home village got too bad.
  • Mentioning that the logisticians (“loggies”) keep things running, and that when you find a good one you should marry him. Thus…
  • Meeting a husband who is a logistician, including the almost cliche of falling in love and starting a relationship in the middle of a war.
  • Feeling a space open up between her and friends and family from “before”, who simply can’t understand her new life.

The regularity with which all these stories are repeated in all the books is either due to the fact that because they make for good books editors crave them, or the fact they are unifying features of the life I’ve chosen for myself. Let’s just assume it’s the editors, ok? Not enough of those are happy fun things for me to be looking forward to them.

I’ve been looking into Geographic Information Systems some. I want to turn my local city park into a refugee camp, including a nifty map like they make at the Humanitarian Information Centre for Darfur. Paul told me to start off with pencil, paper, and my boots. But that doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun as spending hours trying to understand GIS software from the comfort of my house!

The other cool thing I arranged for myself is an 80 hour first aid course. When I’m done on April 3, I will be a WMI Wilderness First Responder (WFR, pronounced “woofer”). That’s pretty much one step (and about 80 hours) below Wilderness EMT. It means I’ll be able to take care of patients for days before “definitive care” like a hospital is available to my patient. To give you yet one more idea, WFR is typically required for the leader of guided wilderness expeditions.

I’ve been thinking for a while that taking an EMT course would help me relate to the doctors and nurses I meet in MSF, not to mention make me more useful in case of a medical emergency where I was the only one available to respond to it. I talked to Jon a while back and ran the idea by him. He agreed, but also agreed with me that any training that assumed I had the infrastructure available to me that United States EMTs have (i.e. fully stocked ambulances and hospitals within 10 minutes) would be useless. So I found a wilderness course, and I’m really glad I did.

So far I’ve had two days of classes. The course is excellent. I would recommend WMI to anyone. I don’t know about the rest of the industry, but it is clear to me that they put a very high value on professionalism, both in the material they are teaching me (which is governed by a board of licensed physicians) and in the teachers themselves.

So, now it is time to hit bed and do some reading before tomorrow’s classes start again at 8 am.

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