Injured Outdoors or on a Rural Road? 911 may not be Able to Save You
Each year record numbers of people are flocking into Oregon parks and wilderness to enjoy nature. While therapeutic, escaping the city can reduce access to life saving medicine, due to Oregon’s limited trauma and injury support system in rural areas. In fact, your risk of fatality increases nearly 50 percent if seriously injured outside of a major metropolitan area, and accidents are more common than you think. Take Kathryn, for example. When Kathryn Carter saw the picturesque dead fallen tree just off the trail, she knew it was the perfect place for a #hikingadventures photo. The former gymnast left her golden retriever waiting by the base of the tree and easily climbed into its branches, carefully tested a large branch for safety, and leaned against it, iPhone in hand to snap a pic. Suddenly, the dead branch broke and Kathryn tumbled eight feet onto the trunk of the fallen tree. “I was laying on this dead tree, with a sharp branch pressed against the side of my neck. … I was sure there would be blood gushing everywhere.” Luckily, the branch hadn’t pierced her skin. Although covered in cuts and scrapes, she was able to limp out of the forest with only a sprained ankle. This is just one example of what can happen when enthusiasts take to the outdoors. Thankfully, she always hiked with first aid supplies, snacks, and water and an ankle brace; most do not. (Before you head out for your own #hikingadventure, check out our list of Eight Unexpected Items Doctors Recommend You Take in Your Backpack.) “The highest accident mortality rates in the country are in rural states like Oregon. So this is the challenge from a public health standpoint to try and reverse this and give people a chance who are injured in a rural car accident, farming accident or in the wilderness,” said Dr. Bill Long, co-chair of Oregon Trauma Education Foundation. “Lack of cell phone coverage, inability of medical response teams to get to remote places quickly, and limited trauma training for medical personnel in rural areas all affect how quickly one can get the care needed.” In Oregon’s mountains and countryside, it’s easy to forget how isolated you are. Treacherous terrain on the coast can slow ambulances. Remote trails may only be accessed by helicopter, which takes time to dispatch and find a location. Even on popular hiking trails that are a short jaunt from popular tourist towns, medical response teams may not be able to quickly get medical equipment up the trail. You’re on your own until help can find you.