Monday, April 14, 2014

Neck Impalement and Other Wilderness First Aid Emergencies

Matt and I are careful and prepared when we embark on our adventures in the great outdoors. That is just being smart.  Over all the years tromping around together we've both sustained very minor injuries, but never anything major. Thank heavens.  We are very grateful for that and hope to continue the trend.
Artist's Paintpots, Yellowstone National Park
We can always do our part to be observant of our surroundings, including the terrain, weather, wildlife, gear, etc.  That is critical.  We can always be prepared for the outing with good shoes, appropriate jackets and hats, walking sticks, etc.  However, even with a generally safe manner accidents can happen in a split second.   Case in point:  I once sprained my ankle as Matt and I were hiking out on a backpacking trip.  It was so silly.  I realized that I could see the trailhead end point and got excited at the prospect of having lunch soon since I was hungry.  I shifted my focus 1/4 mile down the trail for a matter of 15-30 seconds and rolled my ankle on some loose gravel on the trail.  Thank heavens I only had 1/4 mile left to limp through as my ankle quickly was painful, red, and swollen.  It happens so fast.
Front Basin at Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park
So, just in case....
Ptarmigan Trail, Glacier National Park
I was offered the chance to earn my two-year wilderness first aid certification through the National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Medicine Institute this past weekend.  For free.  Another participant dropped out and I was offered the chance to fill in.  Since the course had already been paid for I was able to skip the $250 class fee.  I could hardly say no--even though I had been looking forward to a weekend where, oddly, I didn't have anything planned.  It was meant to be, I guess.
Now that I've completed the course I actually think that $250 would have been money well spent for the skills and confidence I've gained from the experience.  In fact, I am going to encourage Matt to take the course at some point.  Heaven forbid we should ever need the knowledge, but when we're out in the woods together it seems like it would be a comfort to know we've got the training to back us up....just in case.
I wouldn't say I had no first aid experience before the class, but it was certainly limited and I'd never been asked to demonstrate it in practice.  I'd never had to improvise a sling or splint.  I'd never had to lift or roll over an unconscious person. I'd never had to recognize the signs of shock.  I'd never taped a sprained ankle. I'd never had to check the A, B, Cs on a real person (airway, breathing, circulation). I'd never had to stabilize a foreign body that had been impaled into someone. I'd never taken another person's vital signs.  And so on.
South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park
Two full days of training later and I can do all that and more.
Imperial Geyser, Yellowstone National Park
The training involved some rather intense scenarios where we got to practice our new skills in patient assessment and treatment under the watchful eyes of the NOLS-WMI medics who offered constructive criticisms on ways to improve the techniques.  It involved some pretty remarkable make-up and effects.  There was make-up to make us look pale or flushed or bruised. There was fake blood and fake skin.  There were patients moaning in pain.  There was fake vomit made from granola and water.  There were fake puncture wounds with protruding objects. There were unconscious patients.  There were fake compound fractures.  And most of them seemed pretty darn realistic.
A (fake) stick impalement to the neck.
It was cool--once I got past my initial awkwardness at play-acting and touching and being touched by so many relative strangers.  I helped make a heating pod for a hypothermic patient out of sleeping bags and a tarp.  I made a splint for a patient who broke her arm during a fall while hiking out of random pieces of clothing and shoelaces.  I made a sling out of my scarf.  I made sure that airways were clear and narrowly avoided getting thrown up on in the process.  I recognized the symptoms of heat exhaustion in some ultramarathoners and treated them with rest and water before it could become heat stroke. I irrigated and dressed an abrasion from a cycling accident. I did a head to toe examination of a patient who had an unexplained seizure.  I helped safely move a patient with a spinal injury after she'd been thrown from a horse.  I took vital signs.  I called in radio reports to rescue units.  (And of course, for the sake of clarity, these were all very much pretend scenarios.)
A (fake) hunting knife mishap.  
I really enjoyed the focus on using what was around in the wilderness first aid course.  No first-aid kit is every going to be perfect.  Or if I made the "perfect" kit it would end up being so huge that I'd not carry it around which would make it less that ideal again. The ability to make functional splints, wraps, bandages, litters, etc with what resources are available from socks and belts to tree branches and water bottles seemed pretty brilliant--whether the broken bone or burn happened in the city or way back in the remote mountains. That said, I do think that Matt and I need to bump up our first aid kit.  Its pretty good, but I can see a couple small additions that would be helpful such as a bigger roll of wider tape and syringe for cleaning abrasions.  I once fell and got stone and dirt in my knee on a hike.  That irrigation syringe would have been handy for getting the tiny bits of gravel out of my tender, ripped flesh.  We improvised and pouring water from my water bottle seemed to do the trick more or less.  But, a syringe is small and light and with greater force and precision is better suited to cleaning abrasions. It seems like a worthy addition.  Abrasions are one of our more common minor injuries.
South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park
I hope to never really need to put the training to real use.  I hope, I hope, I hope.  But I feel that if there was an emergency--in the woods or in my kitchen--I'd be better prepared for it.  That's not to say I wouldn't be freaking out some on the inside if it was something major and bloody or involving someone I love.  But, I'd at least have a system and steps to work through when placed in the situation instead of just mentally screaming "What do I do!? What do I do?!"
And off and on all day long--both days-- I thought of my dear medical-geek friend, Josh, admirer of intubations and defibrillation, the fantastic paramedic who passed away last year.  He would have loved the course.  He would have loved talking to the trainers--swapping stories, checking out gear, and the like.  He could have taught the course, I am sure.  And I would have loved to talk to him about it.  I thought that over and over. I wished I could talk to Josh about all that I was learning.  He was built to be a life saver.  I am not.  But, I'd like to think I could do well enough now, if I had to, to make him proud.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Better Smoothies

I've posted before about how I find fruit smoothies to be a brilliant breakfast innovation.  Smoothies make it a snap to slurp up a good part of the daily dose of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and the accompanying nutrients and vitamins.  They are also fast and easy to make, eat, and clean up after.  It helps start my day on the right foot.
For years we would just make our smoothies with a mixture of different frozen fruits and non-dairy milk. Last year we started adding a dollop of peanut butter.  And from there, I guess we realized how easy it would be to bump it up a few more notches nutritionally while still maintaining the illusion of having a breakfast milkshake.  Now we add ground flax seed or ground hemp seeds, spirulina, leafy greens, chia seeds, and peanut butter--by themselves or in combination with each other.  On special occasions I'll add a few drops of vanilla which really does make it taste like a milkshake.  A little goes a long way though.  Too much makes the smoothie sickeningly sweet.  Speaking of sweet:  I've also added a small dab of honey when I've found my mixture of nuts and greens has diminished the sweetness more than I'd prefer.

My friends, David and Michelle, recently got a Vitamix.  I have had a few pangs of want for one, I must say, since I saw it in action.  It can turn fruit into a smoothie without added liquid.  It can liquefy fruit!  I think that is impressive.  It can also make dry chickpeas into chickpea flour in a matter of minutes.  That was loud, but equally impressive. They're crazy expensive though so maybe someday....

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Wonders and Realities of the Universe - Inspiration Thursday

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction." - Rachel Carson

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Resolutions of the Month: A Hiatus from The Simpson's

I have been tardy in announcing the April Resolution-of-the-Month. Here goes:

So far the resolutions of the month have all had something to do with food and/or health. Food and health are very important to me (I'd like to think that they are for everyone). They are also very interconnected with each other and so many other important world issues such as poverty, and habitat and wildlife conservation. But, there are so many things to try and ideas to explore. I didn't want the resolutions to be on a food theme.
So, that brings us to the Resolution of the Month for April--Skipping watching The Simpson's.

Matt and I don't really watch TV, maybe an hour or two a week. (The American average being 34 hours per week according to Nielson data from 2012.) That is really our "secret" to success in pretty much all of our endeavors. Its amazing what a person can find time to do, read, learn, make, etc, if the hours are not drained away watching the "boob tube," as my mother used to call it.
Matt and I can go weeks without turning on the television (which has been relegated to the corner of the basement as we were dead-set on NOT putting it in our living room when we moved in. Its the living room after all--we wanted ours to be for living in, not watching in!). When we do watch TV it is at the end of the day as a mindless way to unwind together when we're between books or not in the mood for a board game. It is one of two things 99.9% of the time:  The Simpson's or a nature documentary.  Matt loves watching learning programs, such as those on the BBC or PBS.  Me, I just want to watch The Simpson's. Over and over and over again. And over and over again.  Matt finds this a little frustrating sometimes, I think.
What can I say?!  I don't love TV.  I DO love The Simpson's.  Its witty, intelligent satire on our ever-evolving social climate which has taught me a great deal over the years and makes me laugh to no end.  I just think its clever.  Brilliant, even.  I own the first ten seasons on DVD and have watched them more times than I can probably count.

But, I've started to question my dedication to watching re-runs of the show--no matter how brilliant of a show it is. Variety is the spice of life, so the saying goes.
Its not that I think The Simpson's is dumb. I don't.  There are literary, political, artistic, cultural, and technological references embedded throughout the program which have been the springboard for my learning a lot. Its more that I feel there are so many varied topics which I want to learn about that I am short-changing myself by always choosing to watch an episode of The Simpson's which I've seen more than a dozen times already. It would be one thing if the episodes were all new, but they're not. Just re-runs from the early years.  So I am thinking I should try to expand my mind and horizons with new wonders, ideas, and mysteries.

Matt likes to rent DVDs from the public library, mostly nature and travel related. He basically has to twist my arm to get me to watch them though. Once I get started I enjoy it thoroughly. But I never feel in the "mood" for them. I'd rather just watch The Simpson's...or read a book.
So, its not that I want to watch less TV or more TV--I am fine with the level I am at. Its that I want to try to cultivate in myself the desire to watch new and pointedly educational television programs when I end up in front of the TV. I love to read non-fiction, but when it comes to the television its like I hit a wall. I'd like to change that. There are so many interesting-looking National Geographic, Nova, Discovery, etc. type programs out there. Its seems like a month of effort might show me that they are worth watching, too.
We've watched two programs from the library so far this month, including Nova's Tales from the Hive.  Bees are remarkable critters.  I knew that, but this film illustrated their wonders quite thoroughly.  I'd highly recommend it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Simple Cat's Daybook

Outside my window...there are so many things to see. And its so awesome to curl up in my soft, cozy bed in front of the big living room windows. Its a nap with a view! Sometimes Beth picks me up and carries me on her shoulder so I can look out the other windows, too. The front door has a great window to look out of!  But, I have stand up on my hind legs in order to reach it.  I like looking out windows a lot.  Its one of my favorite pastimes.  

I am thinking.... there has got to be a way for me to get the balls un-stuck from underneath the sofa on my own.  But, so far, I need help every time. You'd think five balls would be enough so that I always had one to bat around...but no...I get each and every one stuck under that silly sofa pretty much ever day.

I am thankful for... having people to pet me and love me and and play with me every single day again! I could play with them for hours.  When they get home from work I make sure to greet them at the door so we can start playing right away.  Sometimes I don't even want to let them get out of my sight, so I just follow them around the house.  And I think the affection is mutual since I just last night heard Matt tell Beth "I am so happy we decided to get a cat,"  and Beth can't walk past me without stopping for a minute to pet me.

From the kitchen... comes the alarming sound of frying.  I don't like that sizzling noise at all.  It puts me on edge.  But, the kitchen is also where my yummy food comes from so....


I am wearing...  a little jingle bell on my orange collar that makes everyone know exactly where I am in the house, especially when I get excited chasing things or running up and down the stairs.  The orange compliments me red hair.


I am creating... a stockpile of fun things to play with--ping-pong balls, fabric mice, yarn balls, a little bird that chirps, a cube of cardboard, a little fish that smells like catnip!


I am going... to systematically taste all of the houseplants.  I won't eat them, not really anyways, but I do like a taste.  Maybe on some I might take a couple tastes.  Or a nibble.


I am reading...a lot of love and affection in the eyes of my people-friends.  I can tell from their faces and the way they talk to me.  They really care about me.  That Beth can be kind of needy though.  She's always picking me up and trying to get me to sit on her lap or go to bed with her...and I am still getting used to all that.  Sometimes she follows me around!


On my mind... why there are so many loud, alarming sounds in the world, when my next serving of delicious soft food will be, and finding a sunny place to take a little rest.


Around the house... I can tell when things have been changed from the way they normally are.  I carefully examine all new or moved things that I find.  I quickly notice if a chair isn't in the right spot or if a new cupboard or closet door has been left ajar.  I smell everything new with intensity and then, depending on how I feel, rub on it to make it mine.  


One of my favorite things... playing.  I love to play.  I require at least 30 minutes of play a day.  Otherwise, I get moody.  I love to chase strings the best.  We've got this stick with a dozen different ribbons on it and a little bell that jingles when they move.  Oh boy, that thing is the best.  The ping-pong balls to bat around are pretty good, too, though.  And then there is my tunnel!  If I can chase strings or stalk balls from inside my tunnel now that is really the best.


A few plans for the rest of the week... napping in my window seat, eating, playing with Matt and Bethlounging in the beam of sunshine in the dining room, prolonged bathing and stretching, kicking the crap out of my scratching post, and getting so excited that I just have to tear around the house like a cat possessed.  And then another nap.

A small window into my life...
This format come from the Simple Woman blog.


A note from Beth:  Yes, I did just take the liberty of humanizing my kitty.  I'd wanted to write a follow-up post about how quickly she has made herself to home at our place and I thought this would be a fun way to do it.  We're so happy to have her with us.  So, so happy.  I'd almost forgotten how special that intimate bond we can make with our non-human friends can be.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

One Day - Inspiration Thursday

"We are born in one day.  We die in one day.  We can change in one day.  ...anything can happen in just one day."  -Gayle Foreman
Each day is a precious gift that I certainly do not want to waste. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reflections on Brushing Twice a Day

Through my three resolutions-of-the-months so far it has been made abundantly clear to me that changing habits--even little ones--is hard work. Not that I didn't know that already, but....it has been a real reminder of that fact. That is important for all of us to remember, I think, lest we get discouraged at our lack of progress. That is not to say it should be used as an out card. But, I must remember to not be too hard on myself when I fall short.  Every step in the right direction is a start.
So, with that said I brushed my teeth before bed 73% of the time in March. Not the 100% I might have been shooting for, but oh well. Since I brushed before bed 0% of the time previously I suppose a 73% increase is something. I am still going to keep trying. Maybe I'll get to 100% one of these months. 

I did manage to achieve my goal to floss once a week though. So, hooray for that.  I am going to stick with my Sunday flossing for another month or two and then maybe bump it up to a couple times a week.  
Brushing before bed isn't hard. I just don't have it built into my life the way I have the morning time brushing. But, I am getting there. Several of the days we missed brushing was among the first things that I thought of the next morning. "Dang. I forgot to brush  my teeth last night." Matt said that was happening to him, too.  Once it even occurred to me in the middle of the night when I got up to go the bathroom--so I brushed my teeth in the near darkness at 1:00am.  I figured I might as well, since I'd though of it and all.

I put a travel size tube of toothpaste on my nightstand, right next to the alarm clock, to act as a reminder for me and that seemed to help. I dislike the aesthetic of it though so I am hoping I can do away with it soon. But, for now I need the reminder.
Speaking of toothpaste, I learned something else that I thought was pretty interesting. As I am sure is evident already I am a frugal person. I like to save money and conserve natural resources by reducing my personal consumption of commercial products. So, I was ever-so-slightly bothered by the idea of using twice as much toothpaste as I had been previously. 

My whole life--until last year--I've used a smear of toothpaste down the length of the bristles on my toothbrush. Turns out, I've been using way more than necessary. Actually, even the pea-sized dose recommended for children under seven years of age is more than adequate for adults, too.
While talking with my dental hygienist she told me that from the dental perspective toothpaste had no real cleaning purpose. She did toe the American Dental Association line by informing me that for the health of my teeth I should still use a toothpaste which contains fluoride. But she went on to tell me that it is the act of brushing--not the toothpaste--that is actually doing the cleaning. Removing fluoride from the equation (since we do not use a toothpaste with fluoride) brushing with just water is as effective at preventing plaque build-up, cavities, and tooth decay as brushing with toothpaste.  Its all about the action of the bristles breaking up the dental plaque and moving it around the mouth so that it cannot harden into tartar which in turn leads to gum disease.  It is worth noting, of course, that brushing with toothpaste--minty in my case--makes my mouth taste better and consequently feel cleaner, too. So I still use toothpaste, but just a tiny little pea-sized dab now. Like a seven year old, apparently.
All photos from The Montana Renaissance Faire, July 2013
I am quite curious to see how this increase in brushing and flossing impacts my next dental visit--which isn't until June. I hope that they can tell a difference and that I feel less tortured by the experience.  I hope, I hope, I hope.