Anyone who ventures into the wilderness — whether a day hike to the summit of Medicine Bow Peak or a multi-day backcountry trip — is leaving civilization behind, including emergency medical care.
Accidents, injuries and sickness happen in the wilderness, where treatment occurs far from the doctor’s office, with limited resources, without reliable communication and in possibly extreme conditions.
A new product developed by Laramie resident Sonjia Weinstein aims to assist medical providers when facing an emergency in the wilderness.
LifeHands, which is for sale locally at Laramie’s Basecamp, 222 S. Second St., provides diagnostic reminders, a weatherproof documentation form, medical gloves and a biohazard bag in a compact packet. It’s intended to supplement a first aid kit.
Weinstein was inspired to create LifeHands after taking a wilderness first aid class offered by National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander in 2010. She gained a lot of skills but worried she’d have trouble remembering or applying them under pressure.
“I realized that if I were ever in a situation where I need those skills, I might have difficulty remembering it all,” she said. “I could be just as dehydrated, or just as susceptible to altitude sickness as they are. That was really the impetus for this product.”
The main component of LifeHands is a strip of waterproof, tearproof paper printed with a grid on which to record a patient’s vital signs — heart rate, respiratory rate, responsiveness, skin color, temperature — in regular intervals with an included writing implement.
Weinstein said recording that information from the outset aids doctors in determining the course of care once a patient reaches civilization.
“From that, a doctor will get a sense of how the body systems are responding to whatever’s happened,” she said.
The strip has room to record the patient’s name, date of birth, allergies and medications, plus notes on events of the day and other observations. There’s adhesive on one end so it can be attached to the patient’s arm or leg when handing off to an EMT.
A biohazard bag aids in disposing the medical gloves while also containing diagnostic reminders, benchmarks and assessment tips.
“It’s a component to add to your first aid kit, along with some medical training,” she said. “This is almost like CliffsNotes for a wilderness first aid class.”
Weinstein, who has a background in industrial design, moved to Laramie seven years ago. She’s been developing LifeHands since finishing a master’s degree in American studies at the University of Wyoming four years ago. She enlisted the help of UW’s Small Business Development Center in the process.
“The Small Business Development Center has been really helpful in guiding me in terms of business development, and in ways that I certainly would not have come to by myself,” she said.
Weinstein also consulted with outdoor professionals at organizations including American Alpine Club, Wilderness Medicine Institute and Apex Mountain School.
She sees her market to include recreationists, search and rescue providers, anyone who works in the backcountry, ranchers and even military units.
“So much of this area is remote, and so many of us go out and play. It’s partly the reason we live here,” she said. “It’s easy to forget the dangers and the possibility of injury. It’s not something we think about when we go play, but things happen, and it’s always better to be prepared.”
LifeHands is currently for sale in stores in Laramie, Jackson and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Weinstein is planning to scale up her production and start offering online sales soon.