The mission’s log, a day in which life won!


The phone rang on Tuesday evening, the 7th of August, at 11 PM. At the other end of the line there was our friend Benko Zsolt, member of the Mountain Rescue organization in Harghita, Madaras. He was calling us at the request of Nicu Gabor, the chief of Mountain Rescue organization in Miercurea Ciuc. In short, we were requested to take part in a rescue mission, aiming to find a 69 year old man who had gone in the mountains to pick wild berries. He had left on Monday morning from his cabin in Santimbru Bai resort (Harghita Mountains) and had not returned since.

We listened to the little information that Zsolt had at the time and decided that we would meet in the morning at 8 AM in Santimbru Bai. After preparing all the equipment needed for the mission we were left with only one hour of sleep till 2 AM, the scheduled wake up time. At 3 AM we set off with our “brave” Matiz car: two people and one dog on board. At 6 AM we arrived in Lupeni, where Zsolt was waiting for us with warm coffee. We transferred everything to his car and went to Santimbru Bai. When we arrived in the mountains, we met the other teams that were about to take part in the mission: the Mountain Rescue teams, the gendarmes, the friends of the missing man and his grandson. We gathered the info that everyone had, we analyzed the maps and Nicu Gabor decided how the search will take place.

We started the search about 1 km far from the resort, on a slope situated left of a forestry road. The people placed themselves in a straight line and we started “combing” the area, moving along the forestry road. The search area was on a very difficult terrain, as deforestations had been carried on many years before and the ground was covered with a thick layer of branches, berry bushes, ferns and very branchy fir trees. Moving forward proved difficult for both the people and the dog. There were very few spots where you could actually see the ground. After about 30 minutes of search, Fedor suddenly changed the direction to the right and initially I thought that he was trying to reach Calin, who was somewhere higher on the slope, to my right. I watched the dog going through the bushes and I saw him reach a MAN. I quickly ran towards him and during those seconds, millions of thoughts and feelings went through my mind and heart. “Could this be the man we are looking for? … What if he is just someone resting?” Then I felt an immense happiness when I realized that the man, lying under the branches of a small fir tree, was wearing the shirt that the missing man’s family described… Then the fear kicked in: what if we are too late? I was OVERWHELMED with joy when I heard his faint voice asking for help while I was crying out to the other teams that WE FOUND HIM! The search was over and the RESCUE was about to start. Calin and the two gendarmes that were closer rushed to us and they started to care for the man on the ground, while they radioed the remaining teams the good news and also information about the state in which we found him in. He was awake and he was able to talk to us. He was pale, exhausted and dehydrated, but happy to see someone. The others found us with some difficulty due to the dense vegetation, but the directions provided by the gendarmes via radio and our cries led them to us eventually. The man’s grandson was happy and he was laughing and crying at the same time. The mountain rescue men, led by Nicu, examined the victim and decided which the medical priorities were. Very quickly, the stretcher was brought and the equipment to secure his hand firmly in place was prepared. Nicu’s instructions came out like bullets form an automatic machine gun: “Call 112 for the ambulance… stay on the road and guide them when they arrive… prepare the stretcher… two men at the front handlers, two at the back ones… I want water and some cloth… you! stay at his head… you! stay at his feet… now: 1,2,3…” and everyone received very clear instructions and had clear responsibilities, all meant to ensure a smooth transportation to the ambulance. I moved away and I looked at my dog, saying to him: “You see? We are not crazy! We have worked for years and today we did something truly extraordinary!” I hugged him and held him with all the love I have for him and, while I was giving him water, my thoughts went to everyone who helped us prepare for this: our teammates, our friends and instructors in Austria, France and Romania.

The people carrying the stretcher started to move towards the road, crossing the bushy terrain. Then, they went on the narrow and rocky road, to the area where the ambulance had access. A chatty gendarme kept the victim awake and aware with lots of questions. On the way, we stopped often in order to check the health state of the victim and to make sure he stays hydrated, till we reached the ambulance. Once we got there, the doctors and nurses took over and we were finally able to enjoy our success, wishing him to get better soon and to gain strength as soon as possible. Fedor was petted and received lots of thanks and he also got an unexpected gift. One of victim’s friends offered him a summer apple which Fedor enjoyed greatly! We started walking to the place where we had left the cars. There, the victim’s wife and other friend were anxiously waiting for the ambulance to come out of the forest. After the ambulance passed, accompanied by our wishes for the victim good health, we placed all the equipment in the cars, we friendly shook hands and we all went on our separate ways.

A very special day was ending! A day in which life won!!!!

Oana Ciora

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Written on August 13th, 2012

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