You are paddling with two friends on the Farmlands section (Class VI-V) of the White Salmon River in Washington state. The day is sunny and 65 degrees F but the water temperature is quite cold at 45 degrees. Most of the river is behind you when one of your friends Jessie, gets offline and runs the slot. Her kayak completely disappears for a few seconds before popping up downstream upside down. There is no sign of Jessie. Chasing her, you see her get scraped out of her boat as it drags over a submerged rock. It takes another 3-5 minutes (?) to rescue her. Once on shore, she is unresponsive, not breathing, and does not have a pulse. You pull her onto a flattish rock and begin CPR. During the second round of chest compressions, a small amount of foam issues from her mouth and nose. You breathe through it. Roughly three minutes later she spontaneously begins breathing. Ten minutes later she is awake and confused with no memory of the event. Her helmet is cracked and her physical exam is unremarkable. She is shivering even though the rock she is on is in the sun; she is wearing a drysuit. Her pulse rate is 52 and regular; her respiratory rate is 16 and easy; her lungs appear dry with no rales, gurgling, or coughing.
The Green Truss bridge take out is just downstream and requires ropes to haul your kayaks to the rim. Once at the rim, a clinic is about an hour away and a small hospital an hour further. Jessie wants to get off the water and go home. You have cell coverage.
What is wrong with Jessie and what should you do? Click here to find out. Click here to read a blog article on drowning.
Don't know where to begin or what to do? Take one of our wilderness medicine courses. Guides and expedition leaders should consider taking our Wilderness First Responder course.
Looking for a reliable field reference? Consider consider purchasing one of our print or digital handbooks; our digital handbook apps are available in English, Spanish, and Japanese. Updates are free for life. A digital SOAP note app is also available.
Our public YouTube channel has educational and reference videos for many of the skills taught during our courses. Check it out!