Christopher van Tilburg
Mountain Rescue Doctor— Dr. Christopher van Tilburg
For Dr. Christopher van Tilburg a flashing pager is often a matter of life and death and the start of a rush to get to the patient in the vital first hour. Van Tilburg is a Wilderness Medicine specialist and a member of the Crag Rats, an Oregon Search and Rescue team that is the oldest such organization in the nation. In Mountain Rescue Doctor, he recounts some of his dramatic rescues, from a hiker who fell and sustained a dangerous head injury to a cliff jumper with a broken back to eight mountain climbers trapped in the snow in the dead of winter. Not all of van Tilburg’s stories have happy endings, such as the biker who was killed after being thrown over a cliff, but all are compelling. Some may even be familiar; he was part of the extensive search lasting more than a week in December 2006 for three doomed climbers trapped by a storm on Mount Hood, only one of whose body was ever found.
Van Tilburg does not shy away from the dangerous realities of outdoor sports, especially extreme sports, but as an avid sports enthusiast himself, he understands what draws people to skiing, climbing, biking, and all the other activities that occasionally get them into trouble. He never judges the people he rescues, even if they have not taken all the safety measure they could have. Van Tilburg and his fellow Crag Rats are often just like those they rescue – and each of them knows that someday he could be the one in need of help. They participate in rescues not just out of altruism, although they bravely work with the police, the military, and various other groups to save lives, but also because they “thrive on adventure…The thrill is compelling, the danger alluring, and the personal gratification hedonistic.” They get the same rush from the rescues as from the sports themselves and are united by their love of the wildness and their devotion to helping those in trouble, even when it is dirty, dangerous, cold, or just plain inconvenient.
For everyone from the lover of extreme and outdoor sports to the armchair adventurer, Mountain Rescue Doctor is lively, compelling, and fascinating. It mixes exciting anecdotes with illuminating insights on the larger context of extreme sports, medicine, rescue, and even law. Kirkus Reviews says that “each breathtaking rescue literally come to life.” John Harlin III, editor of The American Alpine Journal and author of several books on mountain climbing says, “[o]utdoor folks in Oregon have long benefited from Dr. Chris Van Tilburg’s skills as an emergency doctor…Now his other great skill -as a writer – has brought these exciting tales to the country at large. Chris captures the excitement of a rescue with the passion of a true mountaineer, and does so in highly readable prose.”
Van Tilburg is editor of Wilderness Medicine magazine and writes for many other publications on the outdoors. In addition to his membership of the Crag Rats, he is an emergency room doctor and a ski resort physician. He has written several other books on outdoor sports and medicine.
— Caroline Patton