"If they can't get back up, they need to bring their legs up to heart level or above to keep the blood from pooling. One way to do that is to turn around and prop one's legs against the tree.
"Another thing - people who feel like they're going to pass out need to fight the feeling for all they're worth. If you pass out, you're dead."
Wood said the scariest part about suspension-related trauma is that even victims who are rescued relatively quickly can die soon afterward of cardiac arrest, or can die a few days later of kidney failure.
"What's really scary is that emergency medical technicians and even a lot of physicians don't understand how to treat a suspended person. Most EMTs or rescue squads would immediately lay the victim down and carry him out on a stretcher. That's the wrong thing to do.
"If a suspension victim is allowed to lie down soon after being rescued, all that toxic blood goes quickly rushing back to the heart. The heart gets its oxygen from the blood it circulates. A big slug of oxygen-starved blood can trigger a massive myocardial infarction - a heart attack," Wood said.
"And even if no heart attack occurs, the kidneys can be damaged by all the toxic substances that accumulate in the pooled blood. An Austrian study of rescued mountain climbers showed that several seemingly healthy victims died several days later of kidney failure."
To help prevent such tragedies from happening, Wood has developed a series of recommendations for rescuers and for hunters who have to be rescued:
"If the victim is conscious, he should stay seated at least 30 minutes before being laid down. If unconscious, he should be kept horizontal and should not have his legs elevated. If possible, he should be given oxygen. He should also be given fluids, intravenously if that option is available. And he should be transported immediately to a hospital with a kidney dialysis unit."
Wood's warnings and misgivings might lead hunters to believe they're better off not wearing harnesses. Wood said nothing could be farther from the truth.
"Hunters are much better off wearing harnesses than going without," he said.
"Six thousand hunters a year are injured or killed in falls from tree stands. Eighty percent of those injured end up needing surgery. Thirty percent end up with partial or total paralysis. The statistics for suspension trauma are not nearly that grim, so I would definitely advise hunters to use harnesses."
But only certain types of harnesses.
"I would avoid the belt-type and chest-harness types," he added. "Both of those can restrict breathing and can end up suffocating the user. I would go with a full-body harness of some kind, and preferably one that allows the victim to lower himself to the ground."
For the past several months, Wood has been taking his warnings about suspension trauma to hunter-safety educators, to wildlife officials and to gatherings of doctors and emergency-care workers.
"Right now, both the hunting and medical communities know far too little about suspension trauma," he said. "That needs to change."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.