MP stretchered off Cheviot hills

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On the last Sunday in June, local MP Calum Kerr was carried off a Kale Valley hillside by a specialised search and rescue team.

The SNP member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk was enveloped tightly in a spine-protecting vacuum-mattress, strapped to a stretcher, and carried safely off the Cheviot foothills.

But, thankfully, he was not injured. He was taking up the invitation from the Border Search and Rescue Unit to see their work during a routine monthly training exercise, and it was a rare chance for the outdoors-loving Borders politician to get out of the office.

“I have a passion for the outdoors that my work as a politician usually restricts,” said Calum, “so it was fantastic to be able to combine the two and get hands-on experience of the vital work this team carries out.”

Three scenarios had been laid on for the day, giving old hands the chance to hone current skills and the team’s newer members and probationers an opportunity to learn from more experienced colleagues.

Throughout the course of the day, Calum joined in as the team treated a casualty with simulated leg and shoulder injuries after a fall, recovered a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning (a consequence of using a gas stove in a tent) and retrieved a casualty from steep and difficult terrain using a stretcher and a system of ropes.

To cap the day off, and to give him a sense of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the team’s efforts, your slightly startled MP was packaged in the vacuum-mattress used for victims of spinal injuries, strapped to a stretcher and given a “suprisingly comfortable” ride across the rough tussocks and peat-hags that characterise this remote corner of the Cheviot foothills.

“As you can see, it was a quite an experience,” remarked Calum.

“I was really struck by the professionalism of this team (all of whom are volunteers) and how well they prepare for the many different scenarios that they might encounter.”

BSARU are currently on a fundraising drive to replace their special customised 4x4 ambulance and, in the longer term, to build or buy a new base.

More information can be found at www.bordersar.org.uk (where you can make an online donation).

Look out for them at the various rideouts and outdoor events in the Borders for which provide essential first-aid cover.