Spiral Stairs and Bear Crawls

I was going into my second year as an EMT and working full-time at a private transport company. One night, first call of the night, we got a discharge run for a 150# patient – a light one to start the night.

We picked the patient and their belongs up from the hospital and transported to their residence with no problem. We moved the patient via cot into the house and asked where the bedroom was or if we were moving them to a couch or special chair. Important note: this patient was completely and totally bed-ridden, unable to stand let alone walk. The family member said, “oh, the bedroom; it’s upstairs.” Not ideal but still manageable. . .until we saw the stairs.

It was a carpeted spiral staircase, walled in, with a low ceiling, roughly 22 steps.

My jaw hit the floor. I finally looked up at my 6’4″ partner whose mouth was just moving as if he wanted to talk but didn’t have the words. Obviously, our cot was not an option. I pictured trying to use the Reeves stretcher but decided against that. Our company didn’t have stair-chairs. We were left with just blankets and sheets.

I got about 3 blankets and an extra sheet from the truck; we got them underneath our patient, moved the cot next to the stairs, and used those extra blankets to lift the patient onto the stairs. It was a very, very tight fit. Since my partner couldn’t stand and wasn’t able to safely move the patient just crouched, we both ended up crawling up the stairs while gently lifting the patient to avoid them getting hurt.

It was brutal. It seemed to take forever, but our on-scene time was actually pretty decent. When we got the patient into bed and the signature from the family, we re-loaded the cot and just sat there. My sister was shadowing that night, was impressed and felt slightly sorry for us, and bought us Starbucks before our next trip.

Fast forward a few years. I’m no longer in private transport, focusing on my fire department and working in health and fitness. I had been a member of a CrossFit box where I learned to love kettlebells. I got my own kettlebells and started looking for additional kettlebell exercises. I came across a video uploaded by Dan Kerrigan of Firefighter Functional Fitness using a kettlebell in a Bear Crawl and Drag. Watching that video immediately took me back to that spiral staircase.

Obviously, we weren’t dragging the patient underneath us, but crawling and moving additional weight was very similar to that Bear Crawl and Drag. I started putting that movement into my personal work-outs as well as adding it to the fitness programs of the Firefighters and EMTs I train. I didn’t even have to explain why I like this movement so much; as soon as they tried it, they could compare it to a movement in our line of work. In firefighting, it could be dragging a victim or a bag of equipment through a structure fire or confined space rescue. In EMS, let’s be honest, we come across some weird situations. This movement could be part of that confined space rescue or it could be moving a patient up a spiral staircase.

I also had non-first responder clients do that movement; they weren’t quite as appreciative of the functionality of that movement. They did like how they felt after getting the hang of it and how it helped with other movements like planks and squats!

Interested in getting started with a Kettlebell? Click HERE for my favorite!

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