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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Adventures in Heat Exhaustion

So I went down to Manassas Virginia this weekend for the 1st bull Run Reenactment. Naturally, this had to happen on the hottest weekend of the year.

Knowing how hot it was going to be, I spent the preceding week hydrating. On the way down, I think I stopped at every other 7-11 off I-68 to slug down a water and a Gatorade. By the time I reached the Sidling Hill rest stop, I was full in the cellular sense, and needed to hit the Little Corporals Room. When I stepped out of the air conditioned Scion, it was like stepping into a furnace. The radio man said it was 105 degrees. Oh. My. God.

Pulled into Manassas around 3pm Friday, to find we were camped just across the street from the Brawner Farm, very, very cool. We couldn't be ON the battlefield, but we were very, very close, and there is no doubt that this was hallowed ground.

Unfortunately, this was not a re-enactor event. It was organized by Prince William County as a historic/commemorative/moneymaking event. The camp maps were horrible. After checking in, I found my brigade and regiment were not where they were supposed to be. Wound up parking, and searching on foot. Ran into George and Chris, our Canadian Police contingent, who were just as lost as I was. We asked at several camps, and were pointed in the general direction. After about 20 minutes, we saw Corporal Don. YAY!! We found our company street. Learned from him that the Cumberland Guards (a rather farby outfit) mismeasured their camp, and threw the entire Federal bivouac out of whack. I've fallen in with the Cumberland Guard a few times, and frankly, I wasn't surprised, they're clowns.

Moved the car to the company street, got unloaded, tent set up, etc in 105 degree heat. Sweating profusely. Moved the car to re-enactor parking, A MILE AWAY. Walked A MILE back to camp, too hot and sweaty to change, stayed in civvies, popped a beer, chatted with Don and Keith.

Knowing how hot it was I passed on the beer and dug into the water and Gatorade supplies. The rest of the crew shows up, sun sets, temps get reasonably acceptable, head to bed on a pile of straw covered by a ground cloth. No need for a blanket. Sleep reasonably well. Reveille is at six.

Wake up at five when the Confederates start beating and tweeting. Assholes. Get the fire going so folks can get breakfast started. Those who managed to sleep through the Confederates early wake up call are jolted out of bed when some idiot decides to test their cannon at five-thirty.

Five-forty five. Sgt. Craig tells me and Sgt. Dave to get 'em up. Redundant. Almost everyone is up. Have to kick one private. Attribute the ease of getting everyone on their feet to the lack of boozing the night before, it's too hot to drink.

Six AM. Roll call. Everyone is here! Find out I've been designated Safety Officer. We should probably have one at every event, but with the extreme heat, one today is a necessity. I don't mind, I'm the only person in the company with medical training, although at the lowest level. No matter, I know heat exhaustion/sun stroke and today, that is important. An angry sun is rising.

Nine AM, form up, march out. The guys look good. Pause at the treeline to let the Marines pass. One Marine drops out, already down from the heat. I saw her as she passed, red faced, panting. RN attached to brigade has ice packs and water as we wait for PW County Medics. Looks like she'll be all right.

Form up on far side of the battlefield. One of the vedettes (these are women attached to the various commands who bring water and ice to the combat troops at reenactments) is down. She's young, maybe 15, and scared. I, another 116th man, and an RN working the treeline try to cool her off while awaiting the medics. Medics arrive, she's evacuated, and will be ok.

March to the right flank. Advance to the treeline in the center of the battlefield, the only shade for the event visible to the public who've paid a hell of a lot of money to watch this. Learn that Prince William County has a 32 page script we're supposed to follow. Um, that's not going to work.

Becky is a vedette from the 30th PA. She's with Vincent's Brigade, but attached herself to us, the National Regiment. Perhaps 14 years old at the most. She's supposed to stay in the trees, but advances with us and keeps us well supplied with ice and water. She's awesome. Everyone loves her.

Find out the battery we're supposed to support is no longer on the right flank, its been moved to the left flank to give the spectators a better view. Now we have to countermarch across the front to get where we're supposed to be. To reenactors, it looks stupid. The public likely loves it.

Confederates take the battery. We charge, retake the battery, just like the script demands. Confederate cavalry fails to materialize. Communications on the command level truly suck. We retire, pretending to fend off the Invisible Pink Unicorn Cavalry. God, what a cluster.

March off after clearing weapons. As safety officer, saw two men off the field, no real problems. Cleared three weapons of obstructions, and helped a Fresh Fish with proper musket use.

Back to camp. Crack and guzzle a Gatorade. Sgt. Craig asks if I'm OK. Yep, I'm fine.

Check out Sutler's Row. Nothing I feel like buying. Head to the food vendors. Get a hot dog and a water. Consume both.

Back at camp. Legs weak. Alternately hot and cold, feel my pulse racing. No women around, so I know there is something wrong. Wave down Medical. They transport me to the medical tent. Get signed in and hooked up. Turns out I'm on the edge of heat exhaustion. Medics commend me for recognising the symptoms and getting help before it became serious. Spend the next hour packed with icepacks to lower my pulse rate. Many people come in in much worse shape than me. Released.

Consensus in the reenactment community is that the event sucks. Thousands bugging out. PW County did a good job with support, but the actual scenarios are a bust. Everyone is leaving. See no reason to say for Sunday, get the car, pack up, and leave. Freaking exhausted. Stop in Breezewood at 6PM, get a room and sleep for 12 hours.

Get up, go home.

Yay me!

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