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Hikers praise Powell River Search and Rescue

After suffering an elbow injury, woman had to be air evacuated out of backcountry
GRATEFUL PAIR: After suffering an injury in the backcountry, a hiker had to be evacuated by helicopter after her hiking partner bushwhacked through the night to call Powell River Search and Rescue.

Two qathet region hikers are grateful for the services of Powell River Search and Rescue.

On October 18, hikers Heather Muzylowski and Laura Bruce were in the backcountry.

The pair, emergency room nurses at qathet General Hospital, decided to hike north of Powell Lake to take in a beautiful ridge hike there, said Bruce.

She said Muzylowski’s truck was dropped off at Emma Lake, which was their final destination, and then they were driven up further to hike up to Centre Lake and planned to go back to Emma Lake.

Bruce said they were dropped off and started hiking off of B Branch. While walking through the terrain, they looked at their GPS and decided they needed to go down a ravine to get back on the trail after venturing off because it was overgrown. There was a lake at the bottom of the ravine, so they bushwhacked to it, according to Bruce.

“By that time we decided to camp there because it was a beautiful lake with mountains all around,” she added. “Just as we were about to tent for the night, Heather slipped on the trunk of a tree and dislocated her elbow. She was in excruciating pain.”

Muzylowski said the accident happened at 5:30 pm.

“I slipped on a log just as we were about to set up a tent,” said Muzylowski. “I was still wearing my backpack and the weight of it probably contributed to my injury. I put my arms out in front of me to catch myself and the weight probably dislocated my elbow.

“I could see that my arm was dislocated. We weren’t sure if there was a fracture but it was deformed.”

Muzylowski said Bruce set up the camp, got some food, and at 7 pm, hiked out. All the food was separated out so that if there were bears in the vicinity of the encampment, they wouldn’t be a threat to Muzylowski.

She said there was no communication because there was no cell phone service, so she didn’t know the status of Bruce’s trip down.

“The next morning I saw search and rescue's lights and heard their voices,” said Muzylowski. “I was very relieved. That was at 5:30 am. Later, we had to hike a little bit for a better landing spot for the helicopter, and they got there just before 8 am.

“I was much better when I saw search and rescue, just knowing that people were coming and that they had plans. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of there. I was still in a lot of pain when I was evacuated.”

Muzylowski said that when she got to hospital, she was x-rayed and it was apparent that she had a severe dislocation of the elbow. She said she won’t be able to work for eight to 10 weeks.

Bruce said since there was no cell phone service in the lake location she knew she was going to have to hike out. It was sunset when Muzylowski fell. Bruce set up the tent and got her friend supported with a sling.

When Bruce checked Muzylowski’s arm, it had circulation and there was no puncturing wound. They thought it might have been a fracture but Bruce decided not to touch it.

“I got her fed, we got some water, and got her settled in the tent,” said Bruce. “I and the two dogs hiked out at night and it took about four hours of bushwhacking in the dark with the dogs to get back to the main road and to where we left the truck at Emma Lake.”

911 call

Bruce started driving down and didn’t get cell service until she was at Lois Lake, close to the highway. When she got reception, she called 911 and got connected to search and rescue. She provided the exact coordinates of where Muzylowski was.

“They agreed that they would have to airlift her out of there because it was such a rough road in,” said Bruce.

The person she was on the phone with said an airlift could take place the next morning, but he didn’t feel comfortable with Muzylowski sitting in the woods alone.

“Two search and rescue members hiked in at night and they reached her,” said Bruce. “They helped to get her loaded up into the helicopter and took her to the airport. I met Heather there and took her to the hospital. She got conscious sedation to get her arm relocated and she’s in a half-cast now."

Muzylowski said she was extremely grateful for the appearance of Powell River Search and Rescue during her time of need.

“I’m so glad our community has that resource for people like myself who are in need,” said Muzylowski. “I don’t know how I would have gotten out of there otherwise. It was a pretty rough night. I can’t describe the relief I felt when I saw them.

“I’m also grateful for Laura, who hiked out to get them.”

Bruce said the pair had such an amazing experience working with the search and rescue team.

“They were really amazing,” she added. “If people have a problem, they can get hold of search and rescue through 911.”