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Published: 10/3/2010

Teams work in the wilderness on emergency medicine skills

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Paramedic Todd Metcalf, left, of Northwood and team member Tim McCormick of Lyons, Ohio, drag their canoe out of Pickerel Lake during the Midwest MedWAR in Pinckey, Mich. Paramedic Todd Metcalf, left, of Northwood and team member Tim McCormick of Lyons, Ohio, drag their canoe out of Pickerel Lake during the Midwest MedWAR in Pinckey, Mich.
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Drs. Seth Krupp, left, and Joseph Miller carry Dr. Taher Vohra, portraying a snake-bite victim, in one phase of the emergency exercise. Drs. Seth Krupp, left, and Joseph Miller carry Dr. Taher Vohra, portraying a snake-bite victim, in one phase of the emergency exercise.
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University of Toledo medical students Adrian Hanson, Nick Sauver, and Trevor Teetor, from left, review a map before deciding on their next move. University of Toledo medical students Adrian Hanson, Nick Sauver, and Trevor Teetor, from left, review a map before deciding on their next move.
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PINCKNEY, Mich. - After hiking, canoeing, and saving two victims, Dr. Seth Krupp and his colleagues were confronted by another wilderness emergency: A poisonous snake bite.

They rooted through their gear for something - anything - to compress the wound on Dr. Taher Vohra's right calf. Then Dr. Krupp and Dr. Joseph Miller quickly hauled their colleague from Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital's emergency department up a hill, hoping to gain some time before the next disaster cropped up.

More certainly would.

"You're a child," Dr. Krupp, a Fostoria native, said to Dr. Vohra.

Added Dr. Miller: "My daughters weigh more than you."

Despite the occasional rain and strain, the Henry Ford team was able to continue bantering less than three hours into the annual Midwest Medical Wilderness Adventure Race Saturday at Michigan's Pinckney State Recreation Area near Ann Arbor. Commonly called MedWAR, the eight-hour adventure race pitted 31 teams of emergency medical residents, paramedics, medical students - including some from the University of Toledo Health Science Campus, formerly Medical College of Ohio - and others from several states against each other in scenarios involving wilderness medicine and survival.

Contenders started by racing from Halfmoon Lake with canoe paddles, medicine, and other permitted gear to Crooked Lake, where they had to handle a simulated water rescue. They then canoed to Pickerel Lake and found styrene-foam heads with ketchup in reservoirs representing patients suffering from allergic reactions to bee stings who needed opening of airways, medication, and air rescue.

After paramedic Todd Metcalf of Northwood assessed his team's "patient," Todd Audet of Sylvania supported the head, and Tim McCormick of Lyons used a knife to open the airway. The well-coordinated trio, all of whom are in the Ohio National Guard, said before the race they hoped their military experience and ease with a compass would give them an advantage against doctors.

"You can't get too in-depth," Mr. Metcalf said both of battlefield and wilderness medicine.

Contenders dealt with medical emergencies they hope never to find in the wilderness, including simulated mass injuries after an Ironman Triathlon competitor crashed into a crowd. Eventually, they navigated around the state park in the dark to answer 72 medical questions in hopes of getting correct answers that would shave their physical race time before crossing the finish line.

MedWAR got its start a decade ago, when Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center's Dr. Dave Ledrick was at the Medical College of Georgia.

Dr. Ledrick, colleague Dr. Mike Caudell, and some of their medical students developed the concept of having an adventure race incorporating medical challenges as a research project. The first MedWAR was held near Augusta, Ga., in April, 2001, with 22 teams from eight states and three foreign countries.

Dr. Ledrick, co-founder of North American Educational Adventure Racing, brought MedWAR to the Midwest when he came to St. Vincent, with the first race held at Pinckney in October, 2002. Now MedWAR is held in several locations.

This year's Midwest MedWAR course and scenarios were designed by Dr. Mark Reddington and Dr. Alex Bobrov, both of whom are third-year emergency medicine residents at St. Vincent. About 30 volunteers helped with the race, during which contenders had to use maps to find their way around the park and the next scenario.

Peter Polewski, a University of Wisconsin medical student, said the race was a nice yet educational break. Six teams came from the University of Wisconsin this year.

"It's almost more about the bonding experience," Mr. Polewski said. "The learning will come along with it, I'm sure."

Typically, teams with emergency medicine residents fare best, said Dr. Ledrick, assistant residency director for emergency medicine at St. Vincent. Residents still are young and strong enough to move quickly through physical tasks, and they have the experience to attack medical scenarios and answer questions, he said.

Orienteering skills, meanwhile, play a big part in the last part of the race, when teams can reduce their times by correctly answering the multiple-choice questions, said Dr. Ledrick, who also is medical student clerkship director at St. Vincent.

"The teams that do well are not only the teams that are running all the time but the teams that are running in the right direction," Dr. Ledrick said. He added: "We want to reward brain power over brawn."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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