First aid for the outdoors…
Obviously, you won’t know this from reading it but I’m typing with one-and-a-half-hands. This is following a slightly unfortunate incident this afternoon whilst out foraging for seaweed as part of our commercial wild food project with Rhug Estate. To ensure we only select the finest seaweed (based on appearance, flavour and sustainability) we often snorkel out from the beach near Dinas Dinlle which forms part of the Rhug Estate lands. This way I can glide gracefully (!) over the beds of seaweed and take small amounts to send to chefs around the UK and further afield without damaging the seabed below.
Today was more of the same, and I was diving under the surface (about 1-2m) and roughly 200m from the shore to investigate some particularly succulent examples of Sugar Kelp when I felt a sharp pain in my left hand. Looking over, I saw the tell-tale sign of red mist and flapping skin from two of my fingers. Cursing my decision to NOT wear the gloves today, I briefly noticed a broken bottle lying amongst the seaweed. I rose to the surface and swam back to the shore, and the long, sloping pebbled beach. I wasn’t swimming alone but the other person couldn’t do much to help until we got to the shore! Through the tempered glass of my mask I could see fatty tissue under the flapping skin, and possibly something white and more substantial beneath that. Oh well, at least salt water is reasonably sterile!
Back at the beach I dumped my gear above the surf line and went to the truck to dig out the first aid kit. Original Outdoors runs first aid courses, I spent several years in mountain rescue and have a long history of working with tools in the outdoors – yet I have yet to master the art of applying a dressing to a wound neatly. However I managed pressure, elevation and a bit of an assessment of how bad it actually was. Looking at the way the skin had split and the possibility of nerve damage I decided that a trip to A and E was probably in order. 2.5hrs later I had been treated, streeted and sent packing with 9 stitches and a few days worth of antibiotics.
This was an accident, pretty much unavoidable (although if I had worn my gloves it wouldn’t have been quite as bad) and without much consequence other than yet another scar on my rapidly-ageing body and some blood-stained gear. For me, the most important thing to take away from this accident was the importance of knowing even basic first aid skills, particularly if you work or play more than 30 minutes from ambulance access, and to carry an appropriate first aid kit. It took me a good few minutes to swim back to the beach, and I was glad to have the first aid kit right there. If I had had to drive or walk any distance to get to it then I wonder how much of a difference it would have made – if that glass had opened up my wrist or inner thigh would I have made it to the roadside 1.5 miles away to meet an ambulance?
We spend thousands of pounds on outdoor clothing and equipment over the years, go away on navigation and bushcraft courses and spend hours practicing certain skills – how many of us have been on a first aid course specific to the outdoors? Could you stop a major bleed, clear an airway or assess somebody’s consciousnes level? When people ask me which course they should go on I always reccomend navigation and first aid as the starting point. I can teach you to build a shelter or light a fire, but the survival skill you are more likely to make use of in the U.K. is getting yourself safely down from the mountains or treating a minor injury to prevent it becoming a major one.
We have a 16-hr outdoor first aid course running in October – and if you book now you can save 15%!