2020/01/18

The Patient

We cavers get pretty emotional about rescues. The kind of emotional that finds a group of 40 people from at least three different states happily atop a windy and frigid mountain in White County at night in the dead of winter. We are busy with tasks. Rope must be rigged. Paths must be cleared. We must be trained on how to use a haul system.

Inside the cave people are shaving rocks to widen the passage. Cavers are placing bolts to assist with moving the patient. A medic has rappelled and climbed to him and administers medication to ease the pain. Hand warmers are placed on him. He is cold from having been underground, and unable to move for so long. He hurts and is weary, but he holds a deep strength that all here know and admire.

Here is a place where normal people become heroes. Normal people learn the complex art of cave and cliff rescue and apply that to help their fellow humans. Normal people volunteer their time to their local rescue group.

We wait for the order “Slow haul!” and hand over hand two teams pull the lines a man’s life hangs by. It is a process, with many steps to bring an injured person to the surface. We work and we wait. People within the cave are communicating messages to us about what we need to do.

Sometime around 3:30am the patient emerges from the cave. He is pale, but doing well despite the ordeal he has endured. I shout "We love you!" from above and see him crack a smile. Soon he is on the back of a side-by-side and on his way down the mountain. Cold and tired we pack up and find our way down to our cars. There must be a hundred people here.

Humans are capable of such beauty and wonder. If you ever doubt your fellow man, come to a cave rescue. Tonight a team of humans saved a life. I can’t think of anything more amazing than that.

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