LOCAL WATER rescue members trained in hypothermia care and treatment with a device used to warm up victims that would come in handy in other situations too.
The hypothermia workshop, “Beyond Cold Water Boot Camp,” was presented by Gordon Giesbrecht, aka Dr. Popsicle, a professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management at the University of Manitoba and a world leading researcher in the field of hypothermia, said Dwayne Sheppard of Terrace Search and Rescue.
The workshop covered hypothermia science, extraction techniques, packaging techniques and hypothermia treatment.
The five water rescue members who volunteered to be ‘in water subjects’ braved the 5 C temperature of the Fraser River dressed in different amounts of protective clothing, said Sheppard.
These participants were extracted and treated for hypothermia according to Dr. Giesbrecht’s instruction.
“It was interesting to feel the effects of immersion in 5 degree water. Many people are under the belief that if you are submerged in water in winter, especially if you fall through ice, that you only have a few minutes to live,” said Sheppard, who was one of the ‘in water subjects.’ “The truth is that you can potentially survive up to one hour or more before succumbing to the effects of hypothermia.”
And getting out of the water doesn’t immediately mean that hypothermia stops.
“You lose body heat 25 times faster in water, your body begins to shiver uncontrollably; when removed from the water, the effects of the wind and air cool your body even more,” added Sheppard. The members in the water were removed with various extraction techniques such as the aid of a stretcher specially designed to float in water.
They are then wrapped in a layer of plastic and placed in a sleeping bag to protect them from cooling even further.
People suffering from hypothermia are then transported to a suitable location where their wet clothing is removed, they are dried and put back into a dry sleeping bag with a rewarming device, a Heatpac personal heater, to warm them.
The Heatpac emits warm heat to heat the person’s torso, neck, under the arms and other areas of high heat transfer, said Sheppard.
It also works to rewarm the patient before being taken to hospital, he added.
Terrace Search and Rescue doesn’t have a Heatpac but it would be a great asset that could be used in situations other than water rescue.
“The Heatpac is definitely on our wish list, they cost about $1,100,” said Sheppard.
“They are a great unit and Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht’s research has shown that it is a very effective tool in rewarming patients.
“Having gone though the immersion test and having the Heatpac applied to me, I believe in its use as an effective in-field warming technique.
“The Heatpac can be used by anyone suffering the effects of the cold [such as] avalanche victims. It can easily be placed under the clothing of a subject lying in a stretcher.”
Search and Rescue’s current hypothermia treatment equipment consists of two hypothermia bags and one heated oxygen unit, he added.