I have to apologize for my tardiness in writing this last post, but I feel compelled to tell you about the end of our journey, even if only a few people may ever see this. I last left you on the brink of what was most likely voted our best day of the elective...Tactical Medicine day. This was an amazing whirlwind of flash bangs, immediate bleeding control techniques and weapon handling. The volunteers from the police department and SWAT teams were amazing in their patience and enthusiasm at helping us to learn. We were forced to learn to put on tourniquets under almost any condition - missing our non-dominant arm, missing our dominant arm, blind, missing a leg...you name it. We were also taken into the safe house area and not only did we get to observe the SWAT team's tactics in clearing a building and managing the extraction of a downed person in the field, but they let us come down, put on all the gear, work with a standard weapon and first hand get the experience of how to do it! We ended the day at the shooting range where they allowed us to fire their rifle's, handguns and shotguns of various styles and we all got quite a bit of practice with each! Talk about an amazing day!
Then came the weekend of preparation for our final exam - the four day, three night backpacking trip of our own design, which we all knew would inevitably involve medical scenarios we would have to navigate. Since I only participated with my group, I will tell you a little of our story. I may be biased :-), but I think we had the best group out there (sorry everyone else ;) ). We just so happened to be three Texans, two Michiganders and an Aussie -- sounds like the start to a good joke. Well, as a matter of fact that is one thing we did all day every day...laughed. This had to be the most positive group of people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Our first day started up going straight uphill, and just to start things off right, it was raining. Needless to say, our decision to stay in the shelters of the AT became a godsend as we pulled up to a dry shelter with three walls and a roof where we could change into dry clothes and get warm. Without giving anything away for the future participants, I will tell you that our scenarios were mostly unexpected, and a few of us got tricked into thinking it was the real thing more than once. It was amazing not just to see how each person would really play their role as the patient, but none of our group ever treated the scenario like it was fake. We always took the utmost care of each other, and everyone was always very empathetic. Our second day was our longest day, but thankfully mother nature had given us a break and kept us dry the whole day. The wind was up which made the multiple peaks that we ascended pretty chilly. That night (like the others) was filled with a great deal of the game Heads up, the card game spoons, lots of music and lots of laughter. The third day was the most beautiful, and luckily once again we were kept dry. However, the last day was something else. We started our last day in a downpour. Everyone was pretty much soaked within the first hour of our hike, and the fact that we had river crossings in sometimes ankle deep water did not help our situation. I'll tell you, it was cold, it was wet, it was windy...but the surprising part to me was that never would I use the phrase it was miserable. Through all the cold and rain our group continued to crack jokes and sing songs...even as we trudged up a steep 3 mile continuous ascent on our last day. The attitude of the group was as positive as if we were all celebrating in a pub together, and I don't think I ever heard anyone complain.
An amazing thing happened those four days. Truly it had been happening all month long between all 30 of us in camp, but those 4 days were a sort of bonding experience like I have rarely ever experienced. I grew more comfortable with those five people than anyone I had grown to know in med school over the last almost 4 years. We started off as acquaintances almost one month prior, we had grown to be great friends over twenty one days, and we grew to be family over those last four. I will end by telling you I know these people will be my life long friends. They are quite possibly the coolest, most energetic, most positive, and most hard-working group of people I have ever known (and I am very much including our mentor as well as the faculty of the elective in this). It was truly an honor to have done this elective with them, and I can't imagine having completed med school without it!