Someone Else’s Memorable Thanksgiving Weekend

Someone Else’s Memorable Thanksgiving Weekend

Friday after Thanksgiving I hiked with a couple of friends up North and South Fortuna mountains. We came across two mountain bikers on the steep saddle trail up to the first peak. One guy was on his back in pain, while his friend was bent over him wondering what to do. I noticed the scratched up bloody knee first, so of course I whipped out my first aid kit and handed some bandages and some antiseptic wipes to the friend, who must have been as shocked as the injured guy.

I say this because they’d been there a couple of minutes after a very bad fall, and the friend hadn’t even thought to call anyone. The guy on the ground was having a hard time breathing; he felt pain on his back, shoulders, and arms, and his wrist looked bent out of shape, like it was broken — which made me quickly realize my bandages and wipes weren’t going to be much help. When we asked the friend if he was going to call anyone, he hesitated and said the phone they had with them didn’t have much battery charge left.

Why they only had one phone between them, NOT fully charged, while they were out biking at dangerous speeds on a trail that can be challenging even for those of us going slowly on foot, I honestly cannot fathom. So one of my friends called 911, and a very long conversation took place heavy with topographical information and lacking any address or coordinates.

…because we were halfway up a steep trail in the middle of Mission Trails Regional Park, with no markers on the trail, in the shadow side of a mountain. Not exactly the intersection of 3rd and Main. Naturally, this means a helicopter and not an ambulance.

Then it was a waiting game, during which none of us could really do anything because it hurt him too much to move.

I did know enough to ask if he ever lost consciousness during or after the fall — and I knew this because I’d had a heat exhaustion incident in February that resulted in an ambulance trip to the ER with a head injury; whether I lost consciousness was one of the first things they asked. Anyway, the guy’s answer was no; he never passed out.

I also asked if he had his insurance information with him because he’d need to have that handy. He did have it, and I tried to reassure him with some positivity, saying that at least he was going to get to ride in a helicopter.

The friend did what he could, telling him he was lucky he didn’t have his GoPro on the helmet at the time of the fall (why that seemed important to him, I don’t know), and then he propped up the guy’s arms with various bundles and packs and checked for any bruising, which mostly resulted in him remarking on the guy’s torso tattoo.

Luckily for the mountain bikers, seven Cal-Fire guys in tip-top shape happened to be running the trails for their PT, and they soon came up the same way my friends and I did. They do the same kind of work that the helicopter guys do, but they do it for the county, not for San Diego itself. So though there wasn’t much that they could do for the injured guy in the middle of a trail, they knew WHAT to do, and they took charge of the situation and helped make him comfortable for the helicopter’s arrival.

The guy, it turned out, is 28 years old, named Zack, and according to his friend, was due to marry in two weeks. They used what little battery charge was left on their phone to call the fiancée and let her know what was going on, and I’m sure after the phone call she very quietly freaked out and wondered how this was all going to change the wedding plans somehow. What a great Thanksgiving weekend they’re having!

The wrist was indeed broken, and one of the Cal-Fire guys had a small pack with him. He got out some stiff orange-colored material that he shaped into a splint, which they later wrapped against Zack’s wrist. They also asked him the same question I did, and they asked others — like about any medical conditions he might have, whether he could feel this or that, and could he move this or that body part, etc.

A couple of rangers came by in a truck during all this — which was a good thing. They were going to be the friend’s ride back, burdened with their bikes and packs.

Then the helicopter arrived and circled the area like a cat getting ready to nap, and one guy dropped down from a line. The downdraft from the helicopter blades were so strong that even though I had moved up the trail a bit to be out of the way, I was blown off balance until I fell to the side of the trail, against the side of the mountain. My friend’s hiking hat flew off.

Anyway, just one guy dropped down from the helicopter. One. He was lucky those Cal-Fire guys were there because they helped pack Zack up like a burrito, moving him onto the metal frame before moving him, frame and all, into a large red bag, which they wrapped up and zipped, ready to be hooked up to the helicopter when it came by again to pick the rescuer and Zack up.

At least four or five of those seven Cal-Fire guys had lifted Zack in all that, making sure to keep him steady and stable, with minimal pain and discomfort. I cannot imagine how just ONE guy would normally accomplish all that by himself when there doesn’t happen to be capable guys around doing their PT in the area.

When the helicopter arrived the second time, we all moved even further up the trail. The downdraft still got us — all the leaves and dirt made its way along the trail to pelt us, getting into our eyes, and we all had to turn around and cover our faces. Then we all turned back around and took photos of the burrito bundle and the rescuer hanging by a line from the helicopter; even the Cal-Fire guys who do the same thing for a living took photos. I guess they’re usually on the other end of the camera in similar situations.

Then the helicopter was gone.

One of the Cal-Fire guys, good-looking and fit like all rescue guys tend to be, then turned to me and thanked me. I have no idea why; I didn’t do anything. So I said, “Thank YOU. Even off-duty you’re working.”

And that’s when I found out they weren’t off-duty, just doing their PT, which of course they resumed straightaway by running up the mountain like it was no big deal.

My friends and I also resumed our hiking, this time with a lot more to talk about as we hiked.

So … it was a pretty exciting holiday weekend. A whole lot better than shopping Black Friday sales. But also not a lazy or easy day, by any means.

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