I spent my most indoor weekend in recent memory at a wilderness first-aid class. This was less an attempt at preparedness than a genuflection, a superstitious offering of time and money to the injury gods in the vague belief that anything I bother with I’ll never actually need. It’s like bringing an umbrella, right?1 … Right?
The 16-hour NOLS starter-course served mostly to reinforce what I already knew, specifically that I don’t know enough to deal with anything serious and am so fundamentally horrified by gore that I’d probably vomit all over any attempt to learn2. A stage-makeup abrasion to a volunteer’s palm had me rocking silently in a ball at the back of the class as the instructor plucked off bits of gravel with tweezers. The casual wagging of model arm with an open fracture made me teary. And it isn’t just blood or the ick factor, honest; it’s the very idea that we are permeable, can be ruptured, jumbled, spilled. It’s appalling.
Which is not an excuse for ignorance, I know. Even a delicate snowflake like me can strive to be competent enough to provide the relief of knowing a situation won’t get any worse, reassurance that someone’s on the way with a uniform and better drugs. That’s something.
But for the rest of it, you’re going to need another type of person. So I’m grateful this week and always for those of you unruffled or compelled or delighted by the notion of our bodies as bags of faintly electrified goop. To you—to everyone I know in nursing school or med school or whatever, to every EMT who’s ever scraped me or the people I care about off the pavement or the trail—thank you, thank you, thank you; better you than me.
1. I have no idea what this is, but it exists on the Internet.3
2. Another thing I already knew was that you should always approach a helicopter from the front. I originally learned this by walking in on this godawful scene from ER. That was 2002; I have never recovered.
3. I swore I wasn’t going to continue this footnote bullshit on this new site, but here I go again.