Sep 29 2016

Achieving Closure: The Duct Tape Rx for a Sticky Situation

A Stitch in Time

A Note to the Reader: I am not a physician, and though I find the approach described in this article useful, there are unavoidable risks whenever a layman* chooses to “play doctor,” whether the patient is himself or a companion. So be sure to consult a trusted physician before employing the techniques outlined here — and then follow her recommendations to the letter.

One more thing by way of reassurance: No writers were injured in the making of this column.

A well‑stocked first‑aid kit is one of the Ten Essentials, and on trips to remote areas, the scope of “first aid” necessarily broadens. When professional medical help is many hours (or even many days) away, canoeists and kayakers may be called upon to become medics, treating problems that would warrant a trip to the ER if they occurred at home. This is why getting formal instruction in wilderness medicine should rank high on every venturesome paddler’s to‑do list.

Deep lacerations are a case in point. The trekker’s world is full of sharp objects: knives, axes, mussel shells, coral, half‑submerged barbed‑wire fences, broken beer bottles… Any of these can slash open your tender flesh in less than a second, and no matter how careful you are, accidents do happen. Standard first‑aid is limited to stopping the bleeding (by direct pressure) and then protecting the wound with a gauze compress or similar dressing. That’s fine if you’re only a 15‑minute drive from the hospital. But what if you’re on a tour of Mongolia or kayaking in Arctic waters, the wind is blowing half a gale (and rising), and visibility is down to 100 yards, with no prospect of improvement in the next 36 hours? Or suppose you’re camping next to a beaver pond, with your car two strenuous days of paddling and portaging away, in an area with no cellphone coverage. What then? You’ve got a deep open wound. And you need to close it. So… What do you do after you’ve stopped the bleeding?

Once upon a time, trekkers in remote areas were encouraged to suture gaping wounds as soon as they’d been thoroughly scrubbed and debrided, and some wilderness medicine handbooks devoted several pages to the technique of stitching human flesh. But that advice has long been consigned to the museum of medico‑historical curiosities. A good thing, too. It’s difficult enough to clean a contaminated wound properly in a hospital setting. Doing so in a riverbank camp borders on the impossible. And stitching a contaminated wound closed is asking for trouble — serious trouble.

Which is why the textbooks now suggest using wound closure strips (“butterfly bandages” or Steri‑Strips). These allow you to approximate the edges of the wound, thereby facilitating healing, while still leaving gaps for any purulent discharge to escape. But in my (limited) experience, neither butterfly bandages nor Steri‑Strips can be relied upon to keep a wound closed if the injured limb can’t be rested — as may well be the case if a trekker’s arm or leg is sliced open when he still has miles to go. In such cases, something more is needed. But what?

Well, how about duct tape?… Read more…


Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Pace, any campaigners for gender‑neutral language. I’m using “layman” in its conventional, inclusive sense. Neither of the two obvious alternatives appeals to my inward ear: “laywoman” is risible, only one step removed from “laylady” — and I was never much of a Dylan fan. As for “layperson,” it belongs to the same lumpish clan as “chairperson” and “congressperson.” Just typing it makes my back teeth itch. Should you feel strongly in the matter, however, simply substitute either alternative as you read. I won’t mind.

Aug 09 2016

Pokémon NO! A Defense of UNaugmented Reality
by Farwell Forrest

Sunrise with Seamonsters

Speaking from personal experience, I can readily affirm that being half‑blind has its advantages. For one thing, I can no longer see much of the plastic trash that litters local trails and waters. And that’s not the only upside. The Turneresque fog through which I now view the world also obscures the recent clearcuts scarring many Adirondack forests. These clearcuts aren’t limited to privately owned and managed timberlands, either. In recent years, New York has itself chosen to turn a half‑blind eye to the “forever wild” clause in the state constitution, the better to construct a network of snowmobile superhighways (aka Class II Community Connector Trails) through the heart of the Adirondack Park. The local Chambers of Commerce hope that the resulting swarms of lead‑footed “sledders” will leave drifts of dollars in their wake, drifts deep enough to gladden the heart of every convenience store operator and tavern owner in the mountains. But are these bullish expectations likely to be realized? There’s good reason to be skeptical. At a time when snowless winters bid fair to become the Adirondack norm, the state’s decision to spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to build raceways for snow machines seems little better than a reckless gamble.

In any case, this latest orgy of state‑sponsored tree‑felling and road‑building in notionally “protected” forests is just one small manifestation of a much larger and more pervasive phenomenon: the unchallenged dominance of mass consumerism in the economies of the developed world. And nothing better exemplifies our enslavement to the ethos of perpetual consumption than the Pokémon GO craze. Who would have thought that sane adults would devote their free time to the pursuit of imaginary — but reassuringly cuddly — monsters, creatures conjured up out of nothing and then plopped down among the suburbs, strip malls, and office towers that characterize the 21st century’s built environment? Not I.

Still, my failure to anticipate the newest new big thing is easily explained… Read more…


Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Aug 09 2016

Wild Swimmers Take the Plunge — Managing Risk

Taking the Plunge

As I noted last month, paddling and swimming are natural complements. What could be more refreshing than a cool dip after a hot day on the water? But “wild swimming” — swimming in natural waters far from the benign supervision of lifeguards — is not without its risks, and I outlined them in my earlier column. Still, there’s no delight without some danger, is there? And it’s important to keep things in perspective. Sitting at a desk for hours at a time can kill you, and the family car will speed one in every 124 Americans into an untimely grave.* The risks to wild swimmers are as nothing by comparison.

That said, it’s smart to do what you can to keep the odds on your side. So this time around, I’m going to suggest ways to make wild swimming as safe as it is joyous… Read more…


Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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