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This summer, the WMS hosted an eight-day, 225 mile Grand Canyon River CME adventure trip for 23 Society members and spouses during July 20-27, 2015. A highly praised National Park Service river vendor, Arizona Raft Adventures (AzRA), based out of Flagstaff, Arizona, was used for this spectacular, once in a lifetime experience. AzRA was well organized with great employees, starting with the initial pre-trip evening meeting in Flagstaff, round trip bus ride to Lee's Ferry (Mile 0 on the river, 15 miles below Glen Canyon Dam) and back, and all the river logistics. AzRA provided two motorized silver rafts that consisted of two crewmembers per raft, all camping gear, waterproof bags, other supplies, and food and beverages for this river trip.

We were fortunate to have two vastly experienced river guides as captains: BJ Boyle and Brad Dimock (author of many Grand Canyon river books, e.g., Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde; and others), with easily over 80 years experience in the Grand Canyon and river guiding between them – and it showed!) Interestingly, Brad Dimock was actually the patient in the Wilderness & Environment Medicine journal January 2014 article, They Had Me in Stitches: A Grand Canyon River Guide's Case Report. We were very fortunate to have Brad as a raft captain and river storyteller. One day, on a short trail hike into a shaded area, Brad told this story how he slipped and fell on the raft creating a large soft tissue injury over is tibia, which eventually got infected resulting in a medical evacuation from the river to a Flagstaff hospital. Fortunately, Brad healed well from this potential limb threatening injury.

Long-term Grand Canyon river adventurer, Tom Myers, MD (Grand Canyon NPS Local Medical Advisor; Author of three river books and best seller: Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon), and trip organizer Brad Bennett, PhD, (WMS President; and Co-Chair 2011 and 2014 WMS Desert Medicine Conference) were the two faculty providing a total of 12 CMEs, and wilderness medicine didactic and medical skill sessions. These CME sessions were held during the cooler mornings, or during hikes into shaded canyons with clear streams and water falls. CME topics included hazards of desert adventures, heat-related illnesses, dilutional hyponatremia, cold water immersion, venomous desert animals, wound management, patient assessment, musculoskeletal trauma and management, wound management and splinting skills, how to be a desert survivor, water purification, and various Grand Canyon wilderness medicine case reports.

As raft captains, BJ and Brad provided ample history of adventurers attempting to conquer the Grand Canyon river, vast understanding of the canyon geology dating back to 1.8 billion years ago, and current National Park Service river management philosophies. There was a great spirit of group camaraderie that grew day after day, centered around riding exhilarating river rapids, daily side hikes to waterfalls, afternoon social hour with appetizers, great AzRA meals, and lots of star gazing and tracking falling stars at night. A great time was had by all, and the final group photo was easily orchestrated immediately prior to the final morning launch to the pullout area at Diamond Creek - Mile 225. It was a quiet ride on the bus heading back to Flagstaff to cleanup, rest, and one final group dinner. Tom and AzRA staff talked about the post-river depression…yes, this was a few days of low inertia when no longer on "river time."

A few quotes for the WMS attendees after the event:

Commendable planning and execution. Accolades to Brad, Tom, BJ, Brad, Laura, and Carla. This was one heck of a trip. It worked! - Bill Pagoda, MD

I am still in a very peaceful and relaxed frame of mind that came on slowly during the trip. I want to thank WMS (Tom and Brad) for putting this program on and AzRA, Brad, BJ, Loren, and Karla, for making our trip so easy. What a group of professionals! - James W. Bond, MD

We are so very grateful for his (Tom) encouragement so that we did not miss out on the experience of a lifetime. What a wonderful Group. Everyone was so friendly and kind and even extended a helping hand to me on occasion and we really appreciate it. - Wilson Sprinkle, MD

Stephanie and I had a great trip with you all.  Thanks to Piper and John for joining us, there is nothing like reacquainting with old friends especially in a breathtaking environment like the canyon.  Thanks to all for a great trip and memories. - Jim Carlson, MD

I coined a new word to describe the trip to friends last nite at a dinner- it was the 'bestestest' trip ever yet.Thank you Brad, Tom, Azra boatpeople and each one of you personally. - Chandini Sharma, MD

I went to THE CANYON to fulfill a dream and to gain some healing skills. She has a way of scrubbing your soul and cleansing your mind.  Then to have the extraordinary group to share my journey with - well lets just say the spirits smiled on me. Thank you for being part of my Grand Canyon Trip. - Rita Lang, DO

I just wanted to say a final thank you to Brad, Tom, our AzRA guides, WMS, and all of you for a trip of a lifetime. I've been dreaming of this trip for over forty years, and I couldn't have shared it with a better group of fellow travellers. It was a pleasure meeting and getting to know all of you. - Gary Rischitelli, MD

John and I concur with Gary that we just had a trip of a lifetime in the Grand Canyon. Thanks to all of the guides, Tom, Brad and all of the best rafting friends on the planet! - Piper & John Crawford, MD

It is exciting to note that other WMS members will have an opportunity in the near future to experience the Grand Canyon River through AzRA's river expertize, experienced wilderness medicine faculty, and the Grand Canyon river grandeur at the next scheduled CME adventure trip, August 27 – September 3, 2017. Get these dates on your calendar and don't delay getting signed up for this once in a lifetime adventure. See you on the river!

Posted on October 27, 2015

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