Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Please donate to RISC (Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues)

(All photographs in this post by James Lawler Duggan)

A couple weeks ago, I was incredibly lucky to be able to attend the third and most recent Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC) training in New York. During this course, freelance journalists learn battlefield first aid over the course of several days. To encourage freelancers' participation, the course and accommodations are entirely free, and each trainee receives a full medical kit to take with him/her into the field. To my knowledge, RISC is the only FREE formal course of its kind, entirely devoted to battlefield/wilderness medical response for freelance journalists. Two more RISC sessions are scheduled for 2013, but there still aren't enough spots for the hundreds of freelancers on a waiting list to receive this critical and potentially life-saving training.

All of which brings me to the real reason for this post. RISC relies on charitable donations from organizations and individuals to keep going. The next group of RISC participants needs your financial support. Each of the previous trainees has set up a fundraising page here. Anything, even $10, can help. With even a small donation, you may help train the person who saves my life on my next assignment.

Below are some additional photographs (shot by James Lawler Duggan), links, and information about the course:


Above, Ben Solomon (who also happens to be one of my Istanbul roommates) applies a pressure bandage to a dummy during a battlefield first aid drill at RISC training.

With 23 of my colleagues, I learned how to assess patients, how to address the three critical systems of the body, how to stop bleeding, how to open and maintain a person's airway, how to do CPR, how to splint broken bones, how to prepare a patient for evacuation, and a ton of other stuff. We did numerous practice drills, in between lectures and demonstrations, everyday for four days.


The instructors, from a company called Wilderness Medical Associates, included a National Guard flight and combat medic who had been deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, a paramedic and guide with 15 years of rural and urban experience, and a wilderness EMT who has worked in the South African bushveld. They were amazing.


Here I am helping to "package" a patient for transport with Mike Shum, another trainee, during the battlefield drill on the last day of training. (Did you know that one of the top four preventable deaths on the battlefield is from hypothermia?)

I attended a hostile environment training (with thanks to financial support from Rory Peck Trust and my agency Redux Pictures) in Lebanon last year. It was great, but only half of it was devoted to medical training. And I think it's something you have to practice over and over, throughout the years, updating your skills and training your mind and muscles to act.



Robert Nickelsberg, Carol Dysinger, and Michael Kirby Smith practice stopping bleeding using chicken carcasses and fake blood. It may seem macabre or gory, but they use fake blood to try to get us used to real blood, if, god forbid, we ever need to use these skills in a real situation.


Jonathan Saruk, Michael Kirby Smith, and Ben Solomon finish the documentation and packaging of their battlefield patient.


There's Sawyer, one of the amazing trainers, in the briefing session after a mass casualty drill.


The trainees, instructors, and RISC directors outside the Bronx Documentary Center, where the training was held, on our last day of training, March 29, 2013.