Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mountain Rescue Doctor by Christopher Van Tilburg, M.D.

book cover

Mountain Rescue Doctor:
Wilderness Medicine in the Extremes of Nature
by Christopher Van Tilburg, M.D.

Hardback: 304 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
First Released: 2007

Author Website

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Publisher's website:
Christopher Van Tilburg, MD is an emergency room physician, ski patrol doctor, emergency wilderness physician, and member of the Hood River Crag Rats, the oldest mountain rescue team in the country. When Dr. Van Tilburg's beeper goes off, the call may take him racing up a mountain peak to rescue an injured hiker, into a blizzard to search for missing skiers, or to a mountain airplane crash scene for body recovery.

Dr. Van Tilburg's work requires a unique combination of emergency medicine, survival skills, agility, and extreme sports. In Mountain Rescue Doctor, Van Tilburg shares personal stories of harrowing and suspenseful rescues and recoveries, including the recent Mount Hood disaster, which claimed the lives of three climbers. Mountain Rescue Doctor is an exhilarating tour through the perils of nature and medicine.

Mountain Rescue Doctor is a memoir describing what it's like to be a part of a mountain "search and rescue" team. The author told many vivid, suspenseful stories about a variety of different rescues--some easy, others hard--over a particularly active year. The author is a doctor and often had to do emergency medical care under some extreme circumstances, but it was easy to follow what he was doing and the descriptions of the injuries weren't gory.

He also included information about the dangers of mountain hiking, biking, and climbing; a brief history of rescue teams in general and his group in particular; how the different types of searches are handled; the mundane aspects of being a SAR (Search and Rescue) member--like meetings and training; how being a on-call SAR member effects his family; why he picked this job and how he got training for it; and some stories about his recreational mountain climbing trips.

There were also several pages of impressive, full-color photos from several of the rescues that he described. Overall, I found this memoir well-written, very interesting, and hard to put down. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes extreme sports or who thinks the topic sounds interesting.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"Belay on?" I shout.

"On belay," yells Jim.

"Send me down!" I holler back as Jim begins to lower me into the crack in the earth. I can't see much. Not the bottom of the canyon. Not the cliff. Not the nearly dead patient lying on a ledge halfway to the creek. The hillside is thickly tangled with vine maple, ferns, and poison oak. I drop backward in a blind descent on the rope and plow through the brush with my butt and back. A branch catches my helmet and twists my neck. I duck my head to release the branch, which snaps back and pops me again in the face. My boots squelch into the thick muck and leave deep footprints. When I hit soft forest duff, the thickly matted decaying leaves and branches of the forest floor, my feet slip. My knees slam the ground with a sickening thud. Pain shoots into my legs. I hope I didn't break my kneecaps. I start to slide on my knees. The rope holds fast.

As Jim lowers me into the abyss, I also have to haul down the stretcher and medical bag, as the brush is too thick and entangled to drop the gear down on a rope. So in addition to keeping myself upright, bushwhacking backward down the hillside, and trying to watch for the upcoming cliff edge, I am dragging the stretcher. Wiry vine maple branches reach out, grab the stretcher, and pull it back up the hill. As I tug, the vine maple fights back and tears my shirt. Finally I yank the stretcher with all my might. It pops free, slides another ten feet, and nearly bowls me over. The rope goes taut again: Jim's got me.

Read more of chapter one.

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