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MOUNTAIN RESCUE DOCTOR by Christopher Van Tilburg


Wilderness Medicine in the Extremes of Nature

by Christopher Van Tilburg

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-312-35887-7
Publisher: St. Martin's

Four seasons in the life of a seemingly superhuman emergency wilderness physician.

A dedicated member of Crag Rats, a nonprofit search-and-rescue club working in tandem with the local Oregon sheriff’s department, Van Tilburg vigorously describes the difficult, life-saving protocol followed by him and his crew while at high angles, precariously perched atop sharp, rocky cliffs: the rush to reach a trapped climber within the patient’s “golden hour” (the first critical hour after severe bodily trauma); attempting a tracheal intubation while a closely hovering medical-rescue helicopter whips up dirt and debris; rescuing two dogs from the rock ledges of an icy stream; reviving a mountain biker who slipped off a cliff. Heavily influenced by his father, a hardworking orthodontist, Van Tilburg’s fascination with medicine and penchant for extreme wilderness sports combined to become his livelihood. Even on his birthday, the author’s focus remained fixated on saving the life of a lost climber on Mount Hood. His adrenaline-fueled narrative begins with events in spring, where melting ice and snow wreaks havoc; summer proves back-breaking for a cliff jumper who jackknifed into a natural “plunge pool”; fall is plagued by heat-exhaustion and rattlesnakes; winter’s deceptively downy snow cover and five-foot tree wells can create an icy coffin. The author finds room between his heroics to discuss the escalating costs of rescues, the regulations governing state forestlands, outdoor liability laws and the hefty price tag exacted on those who cry wolf. Van Tilburg’s dogged spadework in translating to the page the intricate essentials of his unique trade makes each breathtaking rescue literally come to life. Those who choose to brave the Oregon wilderness can do so fearlessly—they are undoubtedly in good hands.

Exhilarating take on the daily life of a unique brand of doctor.