As my first day in uniform drew to a close, a fairly uneventful day, the head honcho appeared in the Interpretive Staff room and inquired as to who was available to go immediately to Turret Arch. A man had fallen off the backside of the arch and had a broken leg and needed to be evacuated. This was just 30 hours after my training in litter carry-outs. Two vehicles headed up with lights and sirens, and I was among the volunteers.
Radio info was sketchy, but we knew an ambulance from Moab was also on its way up. There is only one road in, and it is often clogged with RVs and slow drivers who are gawking at the incredible scenery. Today, cloud-to-cloud lightning added to the danger. Intermittent summer storms are frequent, but lightning is extra dangerous around towering rock forms. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the trailhead and assemble our litter which is attached to a bicycle wheel in its center. Up the trail we bounced, as quickly as possible. The thunderheads had missed Turret Arch.
When we arrived, we found that the man was on the back side of the arch, so we had to make our way up and through the opening, and down the back side. By this time I was breathing heavily from the exertion, but adrenaline was fueling my trip. The patient was lying at the base of a ten-foot drop, and the EMTs were already starting an IV. His right femur was terribly swollen and misshapen. He had made it part way up the wall near the arch, decided to come down, and dropped the final two feet but pitched forward and went headfirst over the edge. Where he landed was quite rocky. A visitor who “happened” to be a nurse saw the whole thing happen and took out her cell phone, which had never gotten reception in the park before, but her 911 call “happened” to go through immediately. She tended to him while waiting for help.
I’ll spare you all the details of the next hour, but a combination of Law Enforcement, volunteer litter team, EMTs and ultimately the helicopter crew from Grand Junction, CO, tended to the needs of the man. It was incredibly professional. The med-evac copter made a tight landing in the bowl (rock on three sides) behind Turret — just like something out of the movies. What is a 90-min drive is a 15-min flight, fortunately for the poor man. He is in surgery now. Another 20 minutes and we had the place cleaned up, all equipment put away, and were headed back down to the trailhead with our wheeled litter.
Lesson to remember: it is always easier going up than coming down. Always.