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Whistle saves man's life after being stranded for 9 days in wilderness - by Charles Horton

In April of 2005, I was out skiing for a few hours on a sunny spring day in the mountains close to my home in Steamboat Springs. When I started back to my car, back down the unplowed road I'd skied in, I'd fallen and broken my lower right leg.

I was alone with a badly broken leg, three miles from my car, three hours of daylight left, three feet of snow still on the ground that I'm lying on, and I'm in trouble! "What do I do now?" I thought.

No phone service, I'm in the mountains thirty miles from town. I have my pack with a few extra layers of clothes, some food, and some survival gear - not much to spend the night with when the temperature will plummet into the low twenties when the sun goes down.

Two friends knew I was out here and where I was, but I didn't tell them I'd just be out for the day and send help if I wasn't back. I had always thought that telling someone where you are going was just a selfish-looking-out-for-me sort of thing.

In those first few minutes lying in the snow, realizing the possibility I could die out here, I had a flash of insight about why we let others know our whereabouts.

It is not just about "me', but also how our injury or death affects others; a community of family, friends and others that each person's life is a part of. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

I thought I had maybe two days before my friends discovered I was missing and would come looking for me. So I put on all of my extra clothes, put my whistle in my pocket (after blowing it 3 times, the international distress signal, in case someone was close by), and strapped my daypack around my leg for a splint and began to crawl toward a dry patch of ground under a tree.

Nine days later, dehydrated, hypothermic, close to death, I heard a snowmobile engine and blew my whistle for help. They heard it and found me within minutes.

I am alive today because I stayed calm and didn't panic, took care of myself each day with survival skills I'd learned long ago, noticed each day the beauty that surrounded me where I was and remembered often that I was part of a greater spiritual presence, of God, in the hands of the Creator.

AND, in the end, it was the lowly (not high-tech) whistle that called help to me when I was too weak to cry out. Carry one with you always. One day it may save your life too.

After my incident, I heard about W.A.C.® while I was in the hospital. I recognized immediately that it was a program that could save many lives and help protect our children.

Arm your children with the simple tool of a whistle; learn about the distress signal so you could respond to someone who needs help.

Support W.A.C.® in your community. Caring is the gift we give one another.


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