Tree Stand Safety Awareness Month
August is National Tree Stand Safety Awareness Month, so I am writing this in honor of the cause. However, this will be a little different from most articles or blog posts that you have read on tree stand safety; this is a look at tree stand safety from the eyes of a healthcare worker.
The Year: 2011
I work full-time as a respiratory therapist. While I work in the pediatric field now, I used to do adult care, and during that time I had the opportunity to care for many victims of tree stand falls. One particular year really comes to mind, and that was 2011. I was working at a long-term acute care hospital (LTAC). For those of you unfamiliar with what an LTAC is, it is a facility that takes patients who are in need of long term care, but who are still too sick to transition to a skilled nursing facility, or to go home. The majority of the patients in this LTAC had a trach in place and were there to be weaned off of the ventilator, as well as to receive physical and occupational therapy.
Anyway, why does the year 2011 stand out to me? Well, it was an unusual year as far as tree stand fall victims go. The LTAC I worked for was not a large facility, but in the months of September and October that year, we had 4 separate tree stand fall victims admitted into the hospital. It was unusual for us to get any tree stand fall victims, let alone 4 within 2 months!
I will admit that at the time, I was not wearing a safety harness when I hunted. And that fact amazes me, because I will also admit that I am very afraid of heights! (You’re probably wondering why I even hunt from tree stands then, but that’s a topic for another day). So, back to the year of 2011 and all of those tree stand falls. I remember them all well because they were an eye-opener for me! I will not cover each one individually, or go into great detail; my goal is simply to remind you to always wear your safety harness. And, if you’re not currently using one, I hope my words will get you to start wearing a harness.
First, I will tell you that the victims ranged in age from their 30s-60s, and that the extent of their injuries also varied a great deal. All 4 patients had a trach and were on a ventilator at the time of their arrival. 2 of the patients were paralyzed, 1 from the waist down and the other from the neck down. 1 patient suffered head trauma, and the last one had some broken ribs along with a few other broken bones. 2 of the patients were able to be weaned off of the ventilator fairly quickly, and 1 was even able to have their trach removed quickly. The patient with the broken ribs was lucky and was able to complete his rehabilitation and go home in a short amount of time. The other 3, however, were not so lucky.
I not only remember the impact that these injuries had on the patients, but also the impact on their family members and other loved ones. These accidents don’t just affect the person they happen to, they affect everyone in their lives! These men had wives, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and countless other people in their lives. And, I saw many tears on many faces; it was not easy for any of them.
This Could Be You!
First, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of the hunter who fell from the stand. Imagine that day when you were able to drive to your hunting spot, you walked to your tree stand, you climbed in, and then it happened. Maybe you made it all the way to the top, maybe you got to sit for a while, and, maybe you even got a chance at that buck you had been after. But then you fall, you wake up in a hospital, you are hooked to a ventilator, you have a trach, you can’t feel your legs, you can’t feel your arms, and you can’t move. And, maybe you don’t even know you had the accident because you have severe head trauma, and you may never remember. In fact, you may never remember anything again, or for that matter, do anything again. You may be dependent on someone to do everything for you for the rest of your life. You can no longer feed yourself, go to the bathroom without help (if you’re even able to get up and go at all; you may be in diapers now), you can’t bathe yourself, brush your own teeth, you are paralyzed. Maybe you are only partially paralyzed, so you can get up into your wheelchair and get around, but you still need help; you are not able to do everything for yourself. Can you picture what your life is like now?
The Impact on Your Family
Okay, now what about the family members? Think of the impact on them. Imagine your wife, husband, child, parent, or some other loved one is now your caregiver. That person feeds you, whether it be by mouth or through your feeding tube, bathes you, and changes your diapers. They are now responsible for every aspect of your life. These family members who take on this role are all too eager to take on the responsibility; they have no idea of the challenges they face. All they know is that they love you and they are going to take care of you. It does not take them long after going home to realize how overwhelming it truly is to take care of their loved one 24 hours a day. It is not only physically demanding, but also mentally exhausting. Yet, they continue to do it. They are now your nurse, your respiratory therapist, your physical therapist, and if they weren’t already, they have become your everything.
Don’t Become A Statistic!
Were you able to put yourself in the place of the hunter who fell from the tree stand? Or their family members? It is easy for me, because I have seen it firsthand, and it was a definite eye-opener. I know what you’re thinking, “It won’t happen to me!” But, every hunter who has fallen from a tree stand thought the same thing. I am here to tell you, it can happen! Statistics show that 1 in every 3 hunters using a tree stand will have a fall from that stand. Yes, that’s right, 1 in 3. Luckily, many of these hunters recover completely. But, know that falls can be very serious; they can result in injuries such as the ones I mentioned earlier. And, even worse, they can result in death!
So, please don’t become a statistic! Take a few extra minutes to put that harness on. It may be a bit of a hassle, but it is worth the trouble; after all, it’s your life we are talking about! Please follow the links below to read about some real cases of tree stand falls. If my words haven’t convinced you, maybe these stories will. I have also included some other important links, please check them all out. Hunt smart, and most importantly, hunt safe!
- Powerful video: this is a must watch
- Indiana man chooses death after fall from tree stand
- Alabama man paralyzed
- Outdoor News statistics
- Tree Stand Safety Awareness
Check out these safety harnesses. If you don’t own one, please buy one. I’m not even asking you to buy one from any of these links; buy one from anywhere or anyone you like, but please, do it!!