The right place at the right time.
After 11-year-old Cohen Schaumann fell 40 feet at Smith Rock State Park one week ago, one of the first groups to rush to his rescue was a wilderness response team in training from Western Oregon University.
Joining them in the effort was Oregon State Police Sergeant Caleb Ratliff.
“I respond because I care. I have a 10-year-old, 16-year-old, 18-year-old. So when you hear a kid’s hurt, you get that little feeling in your stomach like ‘I gotta go,'” Ratliff said.
Ratliff responded after the Western Oregon team had already started performing assessments.
“He was responsive to pain and he was in and out of responsiveness to questions and things like that. He had labored breathing,” Ratliff said. “He was belly breathing and had retractions so that indicated there was something wrong with his breathing.”
The students and staff member from WOU were at Smith Rock a day earlier than they needed to be. Assistant Director of Campus Recreation Zachary Hammerle told us his group was there to obtain lead climbing certifications. They thought it was a good idea to warm up the day before in Rope-de-Dope area of the park — the same day Schauman fell.
“I was belaying one of the students and during that time they heard a scream. Our students immediately jumped into action and asked ‘where’s the medical pack?'” Hammerle said.
Cohen had visible injuries (broken pelvis, wrist, ankle and ribs, according to his GoFundMe), but Hammerle and his students were more concerned about his interior health.
His GoFundMe also said Cohen sustained collapsed lungs, lacerated liver and kidney.
“Our immediate concern is spinal issues, internal bleeding, any kind of airway restrictions,” Hammerle said.
That’s when Ratliff stepped in, oxygen tank in hand.
“Providing oxygen is key so he does end up de-compensating,” Ratliff said. “Children also tend to de-compensate pretty fast. So they will look like they are doing well, and then they crash.”
Hammerle said when Ratliff arrived to the scene, he immediately started directing the people surrounding Cohen and asked them to assist in carrying the boy out of the park.
According to Ratliff, who has EMT training in his back pocket, the students and Hammerle did everything right.
Because they already assessed Cohen and put his leg in a splint, Ratliff was able to act quickly and get the 11-year-old to air support to be transported to Portland.
Brandon Schauman, Cohen’s father, said in a statement, “[The trooper’s] effort, along with so many other responders, is the reason I am able to hear my son’s voice, see his smile and hold his hand.”
The statement included a quote from Cohen himself: “Thank you for saving my life.”
Both Ratliff and Hammerle are happy to have helped.
“That’s pretty flattering,” said Ratliff. “I really appreciate that. I think most of the credit really needs to go to the people that showed up, though, and responded to his initial fall, to that wilderness first responder.”
The GoFundMe for Cohen’s medical bills has raised more than $51,000 as of Friday.