Superman in our midst

By Anna Griffin, The Onlooker

“Anything imaginable, I’ve seen it.”

St. Vincent sophomore Tyler Schmidt may seem like a cool kid. His bright red hair,  humorous personality, and outgoing yet sharp composure are what identify him to the average person at St. Vincent. However, what most people don’t know about Tyler, and about fifteen other teenagers his age across Marin County, is that on a monthly basis he is trusted as a emergency medical responder, cop, and search person, to fight for a human life, sometimes more than one.

Tyler has been a part of the Sheriff’s Department in the Marin County Search and Rescue Branch for about a year. He works hand-in-hand with law enforcement, coroners, police officers, and firemen. Often his search team treks in alpine settings, in the glaciers, and in the summer they can be found anywhere throughout California. What he deals with is called Type 1 MRA, which consists of situations containing severe elevation changes, severe temperatures, snow and ice, more mountaineering searching.

The experience opened Tyler up to different ways of approaching life and violence.

“Its one thing to play a video game and see someone bleeding, screaming, and yelling. But it’s totally different to be there and hear it, it’s a different sound and a different atmosphere. In the game you can restart and it’s all good. But in real life if you quit the game, the person is dead.”

To receive his credentials, Tyler trained for 60 hours to reach the highest medical degree he could for his age. Along with his training, Tyler has been exposed to every scene that would make a normal person’s gag-reflex kick in.

“Snow is always hard. When you’re in knee-waist deep powder, trudging up hills—it’s hard. When you’re falling down hills and you’re using your axe to slow you down, you’re flipping and turning and stabbing. Its hard, you know, its not like you can just stop. You’re on a slope that goes on for another 130 feet, and if you don’t stop yourself you’re done. This is just in training. You could die in training. It’s crazy. And if you fall—you’re all hooked into each other. If you fall, your whole team falls. Your whole team is done.”

Tyler explained how his first search changed him, by revealing a part of society that is dealt with daily, but exists only to those directly affected. One woman with early onset dementia (or Alzheimer’s—it was unclear) had been missing for days. The team climbed through the rugged hills around Mendocino for hours before finally encountering her.

“We found her in a drainage ditch,” Tyler explained. “Lots of people go to drainages. I don’t know why, its weird.”

Somewhere in her escape she had abandoned her shoes. She had no water. She had little to no clothing, except for small shorts and a jacket. Her physical and mental state were even further lacking than her clothing.

“Every time we touched or moved her she was screaming in pain,” Tyler said. “She hurt all over. It’s hard to deal with that because you’re trying to talk to them and get their name and everything like that, to see what’s wrong. You can’t see what’s wrong if everything hurts. We didn’t know what was wrong because she was just laying there. We had to haul her out, and every step, every move, she was screaming. That was my first search.”

After Tyler’s first introduction to the search and rescue world, he started learning more about the lack of medical awareness his peers had, minus a few exceptions.

            “I have a lot of medical skills. If people get hurt, I’m always there. You know, you don’t realize that. In the school, there are students who are medically trained. You could be out in the streets just hanging out, and if someone gets hurt, then you’re there. Its really cool because I’m fifteen, yet, I go and save lives. It’s a really good feeling being able to do that.”