Saturday, January 24, 2009

When even seatbelts don't work

This one took place maybe 3 years ago, maybe a little bit shy of that. I can't quite remember now.

I'd been sent to another station to fill in as tailboard on their engine. It's a busy house, and we weren't disappointed.

We (the entire station, plus many other units from surrounding stations) were dispatched to a reported vehicle accident with injuries and possible entrapment. The location was on a short cut-through road that's known for a very sharp curve, as in practically 90 degrees.

Arriving onscene, there's a sedan upside-down in the very shallow creek. The driver, who we later learned was very drunk, straightened out the curve, bounced off a tree, and landed down there. I say down there because the creek was down a steep hill, with no easy access.

Here's where it gets fun. The hood and front bumper were in the dirt/creek, but the trunk was sitting atop the concrete tunnel where the creek crosses under the road. The driver was in her seat, still belted in, but unconscious.

Making the trek to the car was treacherous enough, it was made worse trying to lug the extrication tools down to the car. It certainly wasn't easy, but we did it. Meanwhile, one of our specialty units arrived and tried to secure the car from slipping off the wall by tying the rear axle to a tree.

I was under the car with 2 other guys. We started working on things like cutting away the seatbelt and trying to get IV access since we knew she was in such bad shape. Some genius who will remain nameless decided it'd be a good idea to cut her coat sleeve to get it out of the way for the IV. Should I mention she was wearing one of those damn down coats? I wasn't the only one picking feathers off their gear for a week.

Anyways, we removed the front windshield and I was fortunate enough to be tasked with holding the lady's limp body off the A-post so it could be cut. It was a crappy job to have, but I did it, and was extremely sore by the end of the call. Once the post was cut enough so we could get her out, we had to figure out how to actually get her up and over the steering wheel and dash. We couldn't risk compromising the car's stability any more.

C-spine and other immobilization precautions had to go out the window for a few moments, but once out of the car, we packaged her (with all precautions) and trekked her up the hill.

The ambulance crew had be ready and waiting, and they were gone less than a minute after getting her loaded it seemed.

Last I ever heard was that she was well over the legal limit and still unconscious. I never heard if she survived, and if so, what condition she's in nowadays. I did hear a rumor that she later died, but I wasn't able to confirm it.

Seatbelts definitely save lives. But why not tip the odds even more in your favor by staying sober when driving, don't straighten out curves or argue with trees, and keep the rubber-side down.

1 comment:

The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

I'm with you! Just stay sober! She's lucky she didn't kill others.