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15 March 2003

Dark, cold, timeless.

Another one of life’s challenges occurred this weekend and I feel confident in saying it was met and defeated.

Jim had a class on confined space rescue. Since I am not a member of the team I could not take the class for credit, so I went planning on being a spectator. I figured if I got bored watching guys use rope that I could go and tackle one of my projects for work. So I was thinking that it would be a rather laid back day for me and a rather demanding day for Jim. Boy was I wrong!

During the class orientation for the day the instructor mentioned that they didn’t have a suitable mannequin to put in the space to rescue. Jim asked if I would mine doing that job and I shrugged. I really didn’t know what I was in for so my response was kind of relaxed. Next thing I know Jim is asking the instructor if he would like me to be the victim. It was agreed that this would be good for the team if I was ok with it. Again I said sure. I still had no idea as to what I was getting myself into. I mean, I saw the structure that was going to be used for the class. But looking at it on the outside didn’t prepare me at all for what waited inside. 

Teams were set up. Two rescue teams were established as well as rigging, air and radio. I’m sure there were others but I wasn’t around when they were being used.

Wouldn’t you know it, my allergies chose this time to act up. So, I went to my car and used my Flonase. My upper respiratory passages were tightening up and that stuff opens thing up. It takes about 15 minutes to work but it does a great job. So I walked back to where the team was setting everything up and testing. A total of 3 minutes goes by and the instructor asks me to crawl into the tube to get in to position. Lovely, Great, I still can’t get a deep breath and its time to get into tight places…. NOT my idea of a good time! Oh well what was to be done about it? I had to go in.

Ok you may have a couple of questions. One, what was I crawling into and Two, why did I have to do this.

Lets deal with the simple one first.

What was the environment?

It was a simple layout, three manholes (two large and one small), and four pipes. One pipe was 30”, two were 24” and one was 18”. (See diagram)

The manholes were constructed of concrete and the pipes were a plastic. The center manhole (#2) had a ladder built into it with the hole at the top offset from center. There was also a lot of snow on the ground still. The temperature started out as 26 in the am and reached about 40 later on in the afternoon.

Diagram (click to view larger image)

Now we move on to the more difficult question. Why did I have to do this? Several reasons come to mind.

1.)    I had said I would so it was up to me to find a way to deal with it.

2.)    It was too late to back out when they finally told me it was time

3.)    If I wanted to be thought of as a member of the team (when I do manage to join) I had to buck up and do things that I didn’t like.

4.)    It was important to not complain or show too much weakness. Being human is ok, but if others were crawling in there with all their paraphernalia then I could handle it if they could.

5.)    I don’t want them to think of me as Jim’s girlfriend when I do join. I want them to think of me as me. So Saturday went a ways in developing that relationship.

6.)    I had no idea if I was going to be able to go through with it all. If you do not push yourself you will never find out what amazing things you are actually capable of accomplishing.

7.)    They had to have something to go in after. The mannequin they had was missing its head and a mannequin is not as realistic as a human being. This added a little more realism for the guys there.

8.)    Lastly, some of these guys had been at 9/11. I hadn’t. There is no way I could prove that I would have been able to handle that. I wasn’t there, and it has passed. I wasn’t out to impress them or to earn everyone’s respect, but I didn’t want them to think of me as a joke either.

So the instructor asked me to crawl in to get into position. Remember this was just a couple minutes after using the Flonase and I was still not able to get a deep breath. I tried to shrug it off and I started crawling in through the 30” pipe. I made it to manhole 1 where the instructor was crouched. He pointed down the 24” pipe and told me to crawl though and settle in the next manhole (#2). I got over half way through that pipe and had to catch my breath. I couldn’t and I panicked a little. So I skootched my way out of there back to the manhole. The instructor asked if everything was ok. I said it would be I just needed a minute. He then said that he was going out to check on things. So I stood alone, in the manhole, in the dark letting my eyes adjust. The orange from my coveralls was washing the beige concrete with an orange cast that my eyes were having a hard time taking in. It was surreal. My pulse went up over 120, and I was defiantly NOT having fun. So I figured the guys were going to be a bit longer so I could crawl out and get some fresh air and stretch out a bit as well. At this point I had serious doubts as to if I could handle this. I was trying to formulate a way of telling the instructor that we were going to have to get the dummy out. A few of the guys talked to me when I came out while I was thinking this. It helped take my mind off my breathing and gave me a bit more time in fresh air to get my lungs working right and get myself calmed down. Just as I was starting to look for the instructor he barks out that it was time.


OK Time is up and it is too late. Time to go in and force myself thought this. The rescuer was about 6’ behind me when I entered the 30” tube. I had to scramble to get ahead of him and into position. I learned that getting on my belly and using my forearms and elbows to pull me though was the fastest most efficient way to get though the 24” tube. So before I knew it I was in the second manhole thinking, “Ok this isn’t so bad… I can do this.” A couple minutes later and the instructor was to my left, he came in through manhole 3. After about a minute I could see the first rescuers head as he was struggling to get through the tube for the first time with all the gear he needed. He was on supplied air and was on a rope so he had to keep those from getting tangled.

From that point on things moved.

I helped the rescuer into the cramped manhole. And he started doing his thing, communicating with command and telling them what things he needed his partner to bring in with him. He requested a **Halfback. It is very much like a KED used by ambulance corps but with hooks in it for attaching rescue ropes. That and the head could be encased with a padded hood to protect it while the patient was being pulled out. Rather comfortable when hooked up correctly.

So while he was waiting for his partner he started getting me into a harness he was building out of a long piece of webbing. The instructor helped walk him thought the steps and though process for how to wrap me into it and if he wanted the pull to be in front of me or behind and how much rope would be needed, etc.  It was interesting to watch him work and figure this out. I learned a lot about what things needed to be applied and what thought process should be used. I learned that a Butterfly knot was a great way to hoot me once harnessed and in the ** Halfback onto his line to be pulled out.

I was sitting there with a “fractured” RT arm. I was allowed to help the rescuer as much as a Real PT would be able to in that situation so we had a bit of team work going on in that 3’ space. So he finally gets me into the harness and his partner then shows up with the Halfback. Rescuer 1 starts putting that on me and I help him out.  Next I’m hooked in to the rescue line as the second rescuer goings back to manhole 1 to set up a pulley system to help pull me around the corner and not stress/damage the rope while the guys outside were pulling.

After a bit of fiddling and tugging we managed to get me into the tube. We had some difficulty with the Half back getting caught on the lip of the tube. I had my hands set up so they could act as a channel for the air hose and the rescue line for the rescuer at my feet as the guys started pulling me out. Once I was in the tube everything just moved. It was cool.

It was incredibly bright out there. The manhole had felt like I was in a well lit room after I had been in there for a couple minutes. Then to be put out in the sun! Wow that was bright. I had a little difficulty with my balance when they untied me and stood me up. I then asked how long I had been in there and was informed that it had taken about an hour. OK that explained a lot of my stiffness and slight lack of coordination. It also explained why my butt was so cold.

All in all that rotation went very well. Very few issues from the PT side and the rescuers did the steps they were supposed to.

In this there are no right answers. There are however plenty of wrong ones. You get an idea and try to make it as good as possible. You try to make the work as easy as possible. Instead of engineering it to work perfect you make it work well and K.I.S.S. it. Safety is the first priority. To the rescuer and then to the PT. Just like on a scene for Ambulance or fire. Make the scene safe/ Keep yourself safe then worry about the PT. Use the technology you have to make the work as easy as possible. Pulleys are your friend! Butterfly knots in this case are also very useful. 

During lunch the guys asked if I would be interested in playing victim for the afternoons session involving vertical rescue. 

Being the stupid lass that I am, I agreed. Heck it couldn’t be much worse then the am, Right? 

So we got back and the instructor told me that he wanted me holed up in my usual place. Inside Manhole two where I was getting to know every bit of concrete chit personally it had warmed up about an entire degree. So after it looked like the guys were ready to get going I crawled in. This time I took the short way in though manhole three. The safety glasses that I used during the first rotation had gone walkies, so I was without them. I didn’t really need them. Nothing other then dust was going to get in them and well after a bit I could just keep them closed. So it wasn’t a big deal.

So I sat in MH2. Oh the fun I had. So I sat on the lip of the tube and propped me feet on the ladder and waited for the new rescue 1 to figure things out and get lowered to my level. Then all I had to do was wait till he got through the tube.  The instructor was in MH3 watching the decent making sure things went well with that. So I started getting bored and slid into a 24” tube and stretched out my back for a couple minutes, then returned to my former position.

For this scenario I was to have a back injury. Rescue 1 came in and assessed the environment and called out for a skid. A skid is a large version of those rolled up plastic sleds we had as kids. You put a person in there and strap them in so they resemble a human burrito. Once this is set up correctly you can actually stand them up in this without worrying about them slipping out the bottom since their feet are encased in the skid as well.

So after a long time of rescue 1 and rescue2 trying to figure out what they wanted to do and with them finding out that they had radio problems… OK, this one didn’t go as smoothly. Eventually they sent the skid in head first… That was a mistake that they didn’t discover till it had reached MH2. So in a 3 foot area they worked to get the skid turned around so my head would be facing MH3, where I was to be hoisted out of. So they got that and laid it back in the tube… head in one tube and feet in another so that it ran through MH2. They helped me onto the skid. I kept wondering how someone with a back injury would be able to do what I was but let that comment slide. Once they had me on the skid they slid me in half way so that my upper torso and head were sticking out into MH2. This is when they strapped in my upper body. They then slid me half way into the other tube so my feet stuck out and strapped those in. Then they pulled me out of that one and slid me the entire way into the tube at my feet so Rescue2 could get out of the hole and set up the line that was going to be hauling me out. After what felt like about ten minutes they started working on pulling me out. They got me half way through the tube to MH3 and had to stop for rescue 1 to retie a knot. OK at this point I was loosing my sunny disposition. I was cold my teeth were chattering and I was stiff. I had no idea as to how long I had been in there. Debris kept trying to get in my eyes so I had them shut with my hands over them to keep the rope from dragging on my face. His hose and line had gotten all coiled in the tube so it wasn’t a simple matter of just letting them run through my hands. OK yup I was getting grumpy. So they finally get my head into MH3 and start trying to get my vertical to be able to go up and out. At that point the Skid put a lot of pressure on my head. I ended up using both hands to push up on my helmet just to relieve the pressure a little and in hopes of keeping it from getting worse. They finally got my fully vertical and I shifted forward in the skid, up against the restraints. I had already moved my hands so I was holding onto one of the straps. Noting that they rescue 1 had not put me in the emergency harness nor had he back stopped any of the straps. I was not feeling as secure as I would like.

Jim was up top working with the rigging team. So I was able to trust that portion a bit more and there had been an instructor up there with them at all times. So I know he would have caught anything wrong up there and seen that it got corrected. After a few yanks they managed to get me out of the hole and laid me out across it to un-strap me. Ok my world started falling apart some at this point. I didn’t like being up that hi while I was laid out over a hole. Ok I know the hole wasn’t big enough for me to fall through and the Skid was rigid enough to keep me up there even after I had been set free. I still didn’t feel right. Anyways, they got me out and helped me stand up. At which point I noticed that my equilibrium was less then stellar and that I was having some vision issues with trying to adjust to the bright sunlight again. However unlike the last time they pulled me out. I was still shivering and I had to get down from the platform by going down a ladder. It’s been MANY years since I have used a ladder an gone up that high. I have never done it when my senses were messed up either. So once again I had a less then secure feeling. However, I did it. I took it one rung at a time and got over a lot of my fears. Got to the ground legs still feeling wobbly and had it mostly worked out by the time I walked around to the front. Once again I asked the guys how long I had been in there. This time it had almost been 2 hours. With a bit over half that time with my being bound up and in one tube or another.

28 August 2001

Well now we are coming up on take two for the EMT-B Exam... I'm ready this time. At least I have all the resources I needed to study from this time. Such as the Practical Exam sheets. Its nice to know what you are supposed to know. This weekend I have a family thingy to go to and I'm not brining my car so I'm going to be stuck where ever I get stuck. So that will give me much study time. This is a good thing. 

Ok this typing thing has got to go... You wouldn't believe the typos I'm creating. Time to go and dig out my voice recognition software and my microphone and get it set up so I can be the ultimate in lazy.. um er I mean efficient.

Vacation.. that would be a nice thing. Maybe in November.

16 June 2001

Take my advise and have more then 2 weeks to study for an EMT-B recertification. Oh yeah and don't be sick. Ugh... I had enough time to review for the written exam but not the practical. (I didn't know about the exam date until two weeks ago.) I bombed the practical over stupid things.. things you never miss when on a call... Such as noting skin color, temp, condition... or respirations... sigh... I also didn't do what I did the first time around which was to put my gloves on at the beginning and just leave them on... It was hot.. and well... Ok. I learned. Bombing Defib just because you forgot to say you put gloves on is embarrassing. So now I have nearly 3 months to prepare and I will challenge again in September. (See notes on EMT-B Page)

I'm still in NJ, think that covers that part of life.

While preparing for the exam this past week my car went into the shop... I'm now driving a car that is 1/2 new. just about everything from mid trany up got replaced. So that was fun... NOT!

By the end of July I'm planning on having my ARC Instructor Certification completed. Now that I have a little breathing room I can get that finished up.

26 May 2001

"The passion to get ahead is sometimes born of the fear lest we be left behind." --Eric Hoffer

Well, Life has it's own humor now doesn't it?
Back in my junior year in High school, some 12 years ago, I had a friend who kept trying to get me into rock climbing. I would tell him he was crazy for climbing a mountain, just because it was there. Yes I could just imagine the sunsets from up there, but the thought of hanging at an edge did not appeal to me. Actually it frightened me. I am one of those who is typically not comfortable at edges. Heights are not an issue, just the edges.
What came from those discussions was a small curiosity as to what it would be like. Over the years, and after speaking with others, that small curiosity has grown.
On May 26, 2001 I had the opportunity to go to a rappelling class with my boyfriend. At first we both had the understanding that I was there to watch and only members would be permitted to rappel. That was quickly changed during the instructions part of the class. Simply stated anyone can try this out. So being a Bouncy Viking by nature I was most enthused.
The curiosity had become a dream, one that was about to come true. ( I know sounds Sappy)
So after waiting on the ground for a harness I had the opportunity to watch and listen to instructions. I was starting to chomp at the bit a little when finally one of the students was finished with his harness. So I climbed on into it, and with little knowledge yet a lot of determination and excitement I climbed the stairs to the 3rd floor. Yes ONLY the third floor. Height doesn't matter much. Its the transition from standing upright on your own two feet on solid ground to leaning out supported by a rope and harness. That's the tricky part. So after watching a few people go my stomach started to get tight. I figured it was now or never. SO I hopped in so I would be next in line. Had the safety line attached to the harness, grabbed hold of the rope after attaching it. Took a few deep breaths stood up on the windowsill, leaned out to clear the window and let my feet go. Next thing I knew I was hanging there supported by the rope and not going anywhere I didn't want to go. So as instructed I at first started walking slowly down the face of the building. Then after gaining confidence and comfort I took some short little hops. This was a blast! Soon I was on the ground, congratulated by one of the guys down there I shook his hand with my own shaking one. Looked at him and said Again! The second time was better. It was easier to get out onto the wall, and this time Jim had the chance to watch me. Yeah I was still scared, but I was learning to trust the equipment. I had yet to be able to trust my own body. With a healing shoulder and a weak grip you can understand my apprehension. But everything worked out great. I took longer hops and made it to the ground much more gracefully. We then moved to the 4th floor where we went with out the safety line. Ok the Stomach got tight again but hey they guys weren't keeping the line taught the past two times and I hadn't fallen so why would this be any different. So with a deep breath I hopped back out on the ledge and started going down. I learned how to speed up my decent and have better control over stopping and starting. One of the guys had a camera and was waiting at the 3rd floor where he asked me to stop so he could get a good shot. I found it rather easy to stop. So grinning like an idiot I let him take a picture. I have to see if I can find out where those shots went. I managed to do this one more time before we had to leave for ambulance duty. All I can say is I'm going to remember this day for ever.
Jim has managed to help me make my wants, dreams, and desires realities. Most of the time he is not aware of how much interest I have in these things. It is a fun surprise.

20 May 2001

I am currently Certifying as an American Red Cross Instructor. I run, as a Volunteer, with a local ambulance as well as one in NYS. I am also working on joining up with CISM. What, not enough stress in my life as it is? LOL. My first training in that will be at the Seminar in July. In a year I will be adding Fire training as well as Rescue.
My current project is just in the research phase.
I'm looking into Windmills. Yes those things that spin and generate power. This has been a long time interest One that my father seeded many years ago. I now have an opportunity to pursue this hobby/investment. After building the Windmill I will start on Photovoltaic modules.