It’s Day 6 of your Wilderness
First Responder course. Scenario # 25:
Picture yourself camped at the
edge of the trees, the sun setting as you start dinner.
Your companion heads off for more water. In the distance
you hear the stampeding of hooves and a faint but
persistent scream for help. You leap to your feet
and assess the scene for hazards. You expect to see
a raging moose or an angry bison. But wait. Is that
a herd of zebras kicking up their heels in the distance?
Did a group of kangaroos just bounce on your mate?
Did guanacos just trample the traveler?
you think? Not anymore. WMI now spans the globe teaching
wilderness medicine from Chile to India, from Australia
to Sweden, from Thailand to Tanzania.
When I taught
Wilderness First Responder Courses in Kenya, we adapted
our practices to the realities of the medical gear,
communication and medical transportation systems,
or lack thereof, in East Africa. The disinfectants
and dressings for wound care are different, backboards
and cervical collars hard to find, and a Lifeflight
helicopter a North American dream. In many ways this
is right up our wilderness medicine alley. Our curriculum
prepares people to improvise and adapt, our expedition
experience prepares us for the realities of evacuating
from remote places.
When instructing internationally,
we also have to learn about the local animal and
plant hazards and unfamiliar diseases. And then,
as always, we need to understand the local folklore
medical practices, and know what to say when someone
explains about a magic black rock that is well known
to draw snake venom through the skin and save the
Our largest international programs currently
are our course offerings in Chile with NOLS
and our affiliation with the Wilderness Medicine
Institute of Australia.
WMI Australia has been teaching
the WMI curriculum to the Australian outdoor industry
since 1999. This spring WMI Australia purchased Wilderness
First Aid Consultants, its sole competitor on the
Last month 18 Australians, three “seppos” and a mob of kangaroos participated
in our first WMI Instructor Training Course (ITC) in
Australia. Actually the kangaroos simply grazed on
the lawn, while the rest of us worked on merging these
two successful businesses, their curriculum and staff.
WMI Australia plans to increase the number and scope
of courses they offer, and establish consistent wilderness
treatment and evacuation guidelines throughout the
country. If you want to learn about truly venomous
creatures, take a course with WMI Australia!
offerings in Spanish are expanding quickly as well.
WMI and NOLS Patagonia are now working with the non-profit
Organization for Environmental Education and Protection
in Colombia (OpEPA) to provide greater access to wilderness
medicine training in South America.
In 2000, several
South American WMI staff (Luis Camargo, Nicole Zangen
and Camilo Camargo) created the Instituto de Medicina
para Areas Silvestres (IMAS) as part of OpEPA, with
the goal of promoting tropical wilderness medicine
and Spanish training opportunities in wilderness
first aid. This group started developing curriculum
for tropical medicine specific to the environments
and the large amount of critters living in the tropics
(serpents, insects, parasites and viruses among others).
Now, countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica,
Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Chile
and Argentina have access to the WMI curriculum in
their native language.
So, whether you need to be
informed about serpientes, lagartos or arañas del rincón, or want
to understand that sphygmomanometer in Kiswahali is
kifaa cha kupima nguvu ya damu, WMI has the program
for you. But remember, whatever you do, don’t
call your beltpack a fanny pack while in Australia.
It’s bad for your health.