IVINS – Early Saturday morning, Washington County Search and Rescue volunteers responded to an emergency satellite call after a wilderness therapy worker collapsed while hiking with his colleagues back to camp in the wilderness behind the Indian Springs Trail area in Ivins.
The call came in at 1:30 a.m., Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Cashin said. SAR’s West Ground Team, Cashin himself and two other sheriff’s deputies rushed to the scene.
Using GPS coordinates obtained from the satellite phone of the person who placed the emergency call, responders started hiking into the wash toward the area where the man had collapsed. The wash was full of large obstructions like bushes and boulders, Cashin said, making the half-mile hike much longer than it looked from point A to point B.
When SAR responders arrived at the scene, the collapsed man was lying on his side and displaying symptoms of agonal breathing, meaning the man was using his stomach muscles to breathe and was unable to breathe normally.
The responders began administering oxygen using a bag-valved mask to assist the man’s breathing. By this time, Cashin said, paramedics from Ivins Ambulance had arrived at the scene on foot and ran an IV and hooked the man up to a heart monitor in an effort to stabilize him.
“We had no idea why this gentleman went down,” Cashin said.
The man was a new hire with the youth wilderness program, and the hike was a challenge to see if he could handle the physical demands of the job, Cashin said. There were no youth with the group; only the four experienced workers and the new hire.
The other men in the hiking group didn’t know much about the collapsed man – just his name and approximate age. The lack of information about the patient made the situation even more urgent for responders.
Airlift rescuers had been called in, but when they arrived, the dry conditions made it difficult for them to land, as giant clouds of red dirt rose into the air with each landing attempt, making it impossible for the pilot to see the ground.
Knowing only that the hiker had spent the day in the field hiking and consuming little water and food, the first responders were forced to execute a new plan – carrying the patient out of the wash on their own.
“We’ve got him on a backboard, we’ve got him strapped on, we’ve still got oxygen going, we are still having to assist him in breathing, and we start hiking him out – carrying him,” Cashin said. “This guy was not coherent, and he couldn’t talk to us. We’re just thinking, ‘We’ve gotta get this guy out of here.’”
Working their way back toward the road where the ambulance was awaiting, the team took many breaks to both rest, assess the patient’s condition and administer needed interventions to continue keeping him alive, Cashin said.
About halfway out of the wash, Cashin said, more SAR volunteers arrived, one of them with an ATV. Using a special “basket” designed to carry patients on the ATV, they continued making their way out of the wash, with men on either side of the vehicle helping ensure the unconscious man’s safety.
By the time responders reached the ambulance, the man had become much more stable than when they first arrived, Cashin said.
The man was loaded onto the ambulance. Both responding paramedics had to stay in the back of the ambulance to work on the man, Cashin said, so a SAR volunteer drove the ambulance to the waiting airlift transport on Old Highway 91.
By the time they reached the aircraft at 5:41 a.m., the man was responsive and complied when requested to wiggle his toes and squeeze his fingers, Cashin said.
The man was airlifted to Dixie Regional Medical Center in stable condition.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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