The Rescue
An Appalachian Trail hiker expresses his appreciation to the first responders from Greenwood Lake and Warwick

Photo provided by David deForest On Tuesday, May 24, David deForest of Tinton Falls, N.J., slipped on a wet rock while hiking the Appalachian Trail about three and a half miles south of the place where Route 17 intersects the trail at the top of Mt. Peter. His foot was broken. But he was rescued by a group of first responders from Greenwood Lake and Warwick. And he wants to let each of them know how much he is thankful for what they did to help him.

I want to give credit where credit is due and also to express my deepest appreciation to the first responders of the Warwick and Greenwood Lake area.
On Tuesday, May 24, I was finishing up a two-day hike on the Appalachian Trail. I was approximately three and a half miles south of the place where Route 17 intersects the trail at the top of Mt. Peter.
Suddenly, my foot slipped on a wet rock and instantly both bones in my lower right leg snapped and I crumpled to the ground.
I took a quick assessment of the damage and could see that my foot was dangling uselessly from the rest of my leg and the pain was very high. A wave of fear came over me and I even said to myself, “You are in very big trouble.”

Prayers and 911

I am a Christian and recognized this as an important moment to stop and pray. I asked God for a complete rescue.
I would like to share how that prayer was answered through the competence, hard work and selfless generosity of the first responders who answered my call for help.
I dialed 911 and was immediately connected with dispatcher Lopez. I cannot begin to express the comfort I felt to have reached a person who was not only an expert in getting emergency help to me fast but also extremely skilled in easing all my apprehension.
She answered all of my questions, gave me regular reports concerning the progress of the rescue team that had been assembled and then wisely employed the help of two “through-hikers” (Bill from Schenectady and David from Connecticut), asking for their cell numbers in case my phone gave out.
She stayed on the phone with me the whole time until the rescue team arrived.
Thank you, dispatcher Lopez. (Bill and David, too.)

Seventy-five minutes later

My wait was not very long, however (an astounding 75 minutes.)
I began to hear shouts from the group as they came through the woods.
I am 6 foot 3 inches tall and about 200 pounds so my relief was great when I saw the large rescue team that had made the journey, including, Barbara the nurse (and leader of the expedition), Christopher the EMT and a team of eight or more rescuers from the local fire departments of Warwick and Greenwood Lake.
Barbara checked my vital signs.
Chris said, “I need to immobilize your leg but after I do the pain will go down.”
I said, “I’m ready.”
And sure enough, my pain dropped from a “ten” to a “five.”
The firefighters loaded me into a metal framed stretcher, firmly strapped me in and then fastened the stretcher to a giant all-terrain wheel (which one of them must have carried up that mountain).

Google Maps

They explained that they had pinpointed my location using the cell phone and then with Google Maps were able to position an ambulance at the closest possible road to where I was.
Therefore, instead of taking a trail, we were going to go "off-road" and descend right over the side of Bellvale Mountain toward Greenwood Lake.
The wheel would allow the firefighters to roll the stretcher wherever the terrain permitted.
Chris asked if I was ready, and when I said "yes," they handed me a red helmet and said, “Let’s go.”
There were two scouts who went ahead to identify the most passable way down the mountain.
But even with their guidance there were often difficult moments when the stretcher had to be passed from hand to hand in order to be lowered over a steep spot or around trees or boulders which blocked the way.
As we progressed I grew increasingly aware of the hard work that all of this involved. It was approximately 90 degrees that day and I am sure that the stretcher (along with its big wheel and also its cargo) had to weigh nearly 300 pounds.

The selfless and generous gift

That’s when I started looking at the faces of these young men (and one woman, another nurse named Tamara) most of whom seemed to be in their 20’s though some were older.
It came to my mind that every single one of them had been busy with work of their own on that Tuesday morning but had dropped everything at a moment’s notice to fly up a mountain and then pour out enormous effort to carry me safely down.
When they had loaded me into the ambulance and I called out, "Thank you," I got my last glimpse of these life-saving people before they closed the ambulance door and Tamara’s father (Bob) drove me to the emergency room of St. Anthony Community Hospital in Warwick.
Never in my life have I felt such admiration and appreciation as I did at that moment, as I considered the selfless and generous gift I had just received.
With all my heart I extend my deepest appreciation to these firefighters, EMT, nurses, scouts, ambulance driver and the excellent staff of St. Anthony’s, including surgeon Dr. Juliano.
I will never forget what you did for me.
David deForest
Tinton Falls, N.J.