Luckily, Boas had just finished learning how to survive. He and six other teenage boys had reached the end of a month-long survival course, and as their final challenge, their instructors left them on their own with orders to rendezvous in several days at a prescribed location. The only advice the instructors gave them before parting was, "Don't die." That turned out to be a hard instruction to follow.
The group was just hours into their adult-free walkabout when the team leader, Josh Berg, rounded a tight bend to see what looked like a bale of hay a short distance ahead. The hay came barreling toward him, and all he could to do was yell, "Bear!" before all 500 pounds (226 kilograms) of it was on him. When the 7-foot (2.1 meter)-tall grizzly bit down on his skull, his friends could hear the crack over their own screams. After giving the 180-pound Berg a good shake, the bear dropped him and charged its next victim. In all, the grizzly took down four of the seven young men, cracking another skull and puncturing a lung before finally running off.
Boas, the EMR, concentrated on stabilizing Berg's neck and fractured skull in case of spinal injury, while the others treated the wounded as best they could. Luckily the group had an emergency location beacon, which they activated as quickly as possible to broadcast their location to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center. They turned their tent into a field hospital where they monitored the injured and kept them warm as they waited to be rescued.
When the helicopter finally arrived, it wasn't equipped to take the two most severely injured teenagers. A second helicopter was to be dispatched and would arrive four hours later. In the meantime, the walking wounded got on board the first helicopter along with two of the three who weren't injured. Boas, the EMR, refused to leave the scene. Together with an Alaska state trooper, he stayed with his critically injured friends until they were evacuated. Incredibly, thanks in part to his efforts, everybody survived [source: Burnett].
Author's Note: How Emergency Medical Responders Work
When interviewed, one of Sam Boas's emergency services instructors back in Connecticut praised his student and pointed out that the story proved how a little bit of emergency medical training can go a long way. That's very true. It doesn't take too much time or money to learn how to save a life. The story of that bear attack both terrified and inspired me. On the one hand, the idea of being attacked by a giant grizzly in the middle of nowhere is completely petrifying. On the other hand, the manner in which those young men responded to the crisis is really impressive. I've already started looking into local EMR training courses.
More Great Links
- Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia – CUPE 873. "Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)." 2013. (March 15, 2015) http://www.apbc.ca/about-us/levels-of-service/emergency-medical-responder-emr/
- Burnett, Derek. "Bear Attack: The Story of Seven Boys and One Grizzly." Reader's Digest. June 2012. (March 18, 2015) http://www.rd.com/true-stories/survival/bear-attack-the-story-of-seven-boys-and-one-grizzly/
- Canadian Red Cross. "Emergency Medical Responder." 2014. (March 15, 2015) http://www.redcross.ca/what-we-do/first-aid-and-cpr/workplace-first-aid/workplace-first-aid-courses/emergency-medical-responder
- Colorado First Aid. "What is EMR?" (March 17, 2015) http://www.cofirstaid.org/home/wilderness-emr-first-responder/what-is-emr/
- Colorado First Aid. "Wilderness EMR." (March 15, 2015) http://www.cofirstaid.org/home/wilderness-emr-first-responder/
- Deeb, Michael. "Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care." New York Journal of Books. (March 15, 2015) http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/surgeon-blue-jonathan-letterman-civil-war-doctor-who-pioneered-battlefield-care
- Emergency Medical Services. "Education." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (March 15, 2015) http://www.ems.gov/educationstandards.htm
- Gosa, Sara. "Teen EMR Gains Experience at Rose Parade First Aid Stations." Red Cross L.A. Talks. 2015. (March 14, 2015) http://redcrosslatalks.org/2015/01/22/teen-emr-gains-experience-at-rose-parade-first-aid-stations/
- Hagemann, Ben. "Australia to represent in mines rescue competition in Poland." Australian Mining. Aug. 28, 2014. (March 18, 2015) http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/australia-to-represent-in-mines-rescue-competition
- Margolis, Gregg S. "The role of bachelor's degree emergency medical services programs in the professionalization of paramedicine." Diss. University of Pittsburgh, 2005. (March 14, 2015) http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10057/
- Murray, Martin G. "Traveling with the Wounded: Walt Whitman and Washington's Civil War Hospitals." The Walt Whitman Archive. 1997. (March 15, 2015) http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/anc.00156.html
- National Emergency Medical Services Educational Standards. "Emergency Medical Responder Instructional Guidelines." U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. January 2009. (March 16, 2015) http://www.ems.gov/pdf/811077b.pdf
- National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. "Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)." 2015. (March 16, 2015) https://www.nremt.org/nremt/about/reg_1st_history.asp
- Peake, James B. et al. "US Army Medical Department Journal (October-December 1999)." Army Medical Department Center and School, Fort Sam Houston, TX. December 1999. (March 14, 2015) http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA491292
- Spirit Point Wilderness Academy and Camp. "Wilderness First Responder Program." 2015. (March 19, 2015) http://www.spiritpoint.ca/content/activities-programs/wilderness-first-responder-programming
- St. John Ambulance. "Courses & Training." 2015. (March 15, 2015) http://www.sja.ca/English/Courses-and-Training/Pages/Course Descriptions/homesafe.aspx
- The Center for Wilderness Safety Inc. "Emergency Medical Responder." 2015. (March 17, 2015) https://www.wildsafe.com/courses/emr.html
- U.S. Army. "Profiles: Dr. Jonathan Letterman, MAJ." The Battle of Gettysburg: The American Civil War. (March 15, 2015) http://www.army.mil/gettysburg/profiles/letterman.html
- Werman, Marco. "First Responders: A Civil War History Lesson." Public Radio International. July 3, 2013. (March 13, 2015) http://www.pri.org/stories/2013-07-03/first-responders-civil-war-history-lesson
- Whitman, Walt. "The Wound-Dresser." The Poetry Foundation. (March 15, 2015) http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/237970
- Wilderness Safety Systems. "Wilderness Emergency Medical Responder (W-EMR)." (March 15, 2015) http://wildernesssafetysystems.com/w-emr