2001, PGHM of Briançon (High Mountain Gendarmerie Platoon).
Pierre Muller is to experience a baptism by fire. A wait followed by a summons. There is a speed-rider in peril near Orsières. We have to be quick. Very quick. The team rushes to board the helicopter which takes off immediately. Let’s recap on the facts. Two friends were speed riding. One of them suddenly disappeared. They have to hurry, the day is fading fast.
No trace of the injured man. A moment of anguish for the team. The helicopter circles around the presumed site of impact. Suddenly, there is a burst of color! Yes, he’s there, his wing is visible! He crashed and was hidden behind an overhanging rock.
The helicopter approaches. Impossible to land. The pilot attempts touch down. It’s a delicate operation, but Pierre and the rescuer manage to get to the injured man. Then the helicopter has to get away. Too much wind could inflate the speed rider’s canopy.
Fully focused, Pierre gets close to the injured person and makes a quick assessment of the circumstances and possible injuries. A speed rider can descend at 100 km/hour. An impact with rock is therefore very violent. The injured person is in a bad way, very bad. Polytraumatized, his condition is unstable. Pierre oscillates him, palpates him, checks his vitals. Pierre feels sure he is giving up and also that he is in agony. He speaks to him in an attempt to reassure him.
The wounded man’s Glasgow score indicates that he is on the verge of intubation! He’s at the end of his tether. They have to move fast.
Pierre puts in an IV, administers morphine to calm the pain and sticks a catheter into his chest to evacuate the air. He then has to be sedated and anesthetized.
In a very short time, the injured person is placed on the stretcher. He has to be winched up. The rescuer straps himself to the stretcher. They are hoisted into the helicopter and then it’s Pierre’s turn. Now, let’s get him to the hospital. It’s a 30-minute flight! The patient is unconscious and being monitored. Pierre regularly takes his blood pressure and monitors his vitals.
Finally, the hospital is in sight. Everyone is ready. Protocol calls for Pierre to accompany the injured person in the series of tests he undergoes. Now he is outside the operating room. His job is done. He’s breathing again and hoping for the best.
The wounded man has gone through many months of resuscitation, surgery and rehabilitation. Once he is out of the woods, Pierre receives a visit from him. The man is deeply moved: “I will never forget what you told me that day”. He reminds him of the words of hope that helped him to hold on when he thought that all was lost. “It’s okay, we’re here, the hardest part’s behind you, we’ll take care of everything now and you won’t be in so much pain…”
Every year, Pierre receives his visit. The episode obviously meant a lot to him. It restores his confidence. It’s important, especially at the beginning. Nothing is taken for granted.
Pierre Muller – Ambassador of our model Chapter 3
Supported Cause – ONG Douleur sans frontières