Getting to class

Time to grab my No. 2 pencils, sling a back pack over my shoulder and get ready to learn. It’s back to school time for me.

Starting tonight, I will begin my biennial First Responder refresher courses, something I have been doing every other year since becoming certified as a responder about 12 years ago.
Generally the responders from the Avoca Fire and Rescue gang go to refresher classes with the fine folks over in Iona, but this year we were informed too late. I did a bit of calling around and found out we can get into class in Reading with their group. I’m anxious to meet them. It’s fun to work with different groups.

I am a bit worries about the roads, though. These classes always seem to take place in the winter, and getting to them has been a challenge more than once in the past.

My first year, while taking the full course (which is twice as long as the refresher), we had practiced all evening strapping each other into KED devices. A KED is a board used to immobilize someone who is sitting up, such as after a car crash. It stabilizes the neck, goes around the midsection and has straps under the legs to support them as the victim is moved.
All evening, the people in my break-out group had trouble getting me to fit in the KED correctly, something we all laughed about. Our instructor came over to check out the problem and ended up teasing me, too.

“Don’t get in a wreck,” he joked. “You don’t fit in the KED.”

As I was driving home on rural roads that January evening, I came to a stop sign between Iona and Avoca. No stranger to Minnesota winters, I gently tapped my brakes, but my van started to slide. I looked up and saw a tractor-trailer bearing down on me. They say your life flashes before your eyes, but all I could think of was, “Darn! I don’t fit in the KED!”

Luckily, my van did stop before sliding in front of the oncoming truck.

Another year, I was heading home from work in a bit of hurry. Classes were to start that evening, and I wanted to get my family fed before leaving. I had to stop for gas, then waited as a small car and a large truck passed before pulling out onto the highway. It was very slick – the roads were glare ice. A few minutes later, the car lost control, slipped over the center line and hit another vehicle. I stopped on the shoulder, grabbing my first responder jump bag from the back of my van. I wasn’t in our territory, but how could I not respond?

A deputy was right behind me. Just walking over to the vehicle was tough because the road was so slippery. I pulled out safety gloves for the deputy and myself, but there was little we could do other than comfort the driver until more help arrived. The small car was twisted and bent, and a set of Jaws of Life was needed to cut the man out of his car. All I could do was hold his hand through the broken passenger window and implore him to hold as still as possible while they removed the vehicle from around him.

When I got home that evening, a fellow first responder called to let me know what time they would pick me up for class. I told her it was too dangerous.

“Oh, the roads aren’t that bad,” she said, after telling me she hadn’t left the house that day.

“Wanna bet?” I asked, thinking of the twisted vehicle and flashing back to my anti-KED moment.

A couple of years later, I was actually in a car wreck in early November the same day we were supposed to start refresher classes. While the others in my group were talking about compressions and blood pressure, I was having emergency surgery. Luckily, the course instructor let me skip the first two classes and verbalize my way through the hands-on portion of the testing. With one arm in a sling and the opposite hand in a splint, I wasn’t really up to giving Annie CPR. I still have a metal plate and some screws in my collarbone from that adventure.

I’m really hoping for uneventful refresher courses this time around. Besides, this winter the weather has been so mild – I’m sure Mother Nature will cooperate, right?