Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Drunk Driver

This post will contain some graphic descriptions of injuries which I make no apology for.  Maybe it will make people think before drink driving.

“We’ve got an Amber call which we think you should be sent on,” said the dispatcher.  “Do you know where Boundary Road is?” (Not the real location)
“Yes,” I said.
“Well there’s a car on fire with people still inside.  We’re arranging the fire brigade now, can you go please?”
“No problem, show me mobile”

I turned into the road behind the fire engine.  I could see the car had crashed head-on into a tree and an ambulance had just pulled up.  I told control by radio that I was on scene, and that the fire brigade were there too.
A policeman briefed me as I got out of the car.  “We’ve got one with no pulse, and another sitting up talking with head and leg injuries.”

I grabbed my kit and followed the policeman to the “suspended” patient, who had been the driver and had been ejected about 20 feet from the car.  The ambulance crew had split up.  The paramedic was just starting CPR, and his crewmate had gone over to the other chap who was sitting up.  I helped the paramedic.  The defib showed us the patient was in Asystole.

The patient had multiple injuries.  Open fracture right femur (thigh bone), closed fracture of his left lower leg, fractured pelvis, chest injuries, and facial injuries.  The paramedic intubated as a priority because the patient had been drinking and his airway was full of beer.  We resuscitated the patient while immobilising his neck with a collar and putting him on a hard stretcher to support his back, putting a dressing on the open fracture to prevent someone catching the jagged edge of the bone, the paramedic “decompressed” the chest to release trapped air around the lungs threatening to cause them to collapse.  

Another FRU had been sent to help.  He was also a paramedic, and he helped to cannulate.  Three bags of fluid were put up to replace lost blood volume, a total of 1.5 litres of fluid.  All three had run through by the time we got to hospital and had made no difference.  We weren’t really surprised – the prognosis for any traumatic cardiac arrest is very poor.

We wheeled the patient into the Resuscitation room, and handed over to the hospital staff. They took over CPR, and a doctor made an incision in the patient’s chest to properly release the air trapped in the lining of the lung.  What happened next is a sight I will never forget.

It was like turning on a hosepipe.  Blood gushed from the hole in the chest.  It took a full ten seconds before it stopped.  His entire blood volume ended up on the floor.  CPR was abandoned.  It was pointless – there was no blood left to circulate.  He was dead.  The doctor said the crash must have caused a tear in the Aorta – the main artery that leaves the heart.
We didn’t know who he was, but he looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties.

This hadn’t been a nice job, but at the same time, it had been a good job in that everything had gone well from our point of view.  Everything had been done properly, in the right order, as well as it could have been.

The saving grace of this job, is that the drunk driver had only killed himself.  That was a waste of life in itself, but obviously it would have been worse if he’d killed his passenger or, heaven forbid, if he’d taken out a pedestrian too.

We helped the crew clean the back of the ambulance which was trashed.  There was kit all over – there wasn’t much on the ambulance that we hadn’t used.  Then the crew took both me and the other FRU driver back to our cars.

Control rang me as I started driving back to station.  “We’ve taken you off the road mate, go back, have a cup of tea and green up when you’re ready.”  

It was what I needed.  I imagined a family waiting for their son/boyfriend/husband/dad to come home.  And no-one knew who he was so they could tell the family that he was dead because he’d been drink-driving and driven his car into a tree.


Blogger DogsBody said...

Thanks for another brilliant post.
The only upside to this sort of job is thank god it was a single vehicle RTA and the only fatality was the drunken idiot who was driving - would've hated to be the copper who got tasked to go and tell Mrs Bloggs her husband was knocked down and killed by a drink driver while taking his dog for a walk or something.
Don't envy your job in the slightest mate - In my opinion it doesn't get said enough so... thanks for doing such a great job out there!

6:19 pm  
Blogger Spike said...

What Dogsbody said. Nearly lost my lunch. Bloody good post.

4:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like you said, you did a bloody good job and gave him the best possible chance he could have had. As an A&E doc, our work would be pointless if it wasn't for the stuff you do on scene that gives these pts a chance, all be it a tiny one, that they wouldn't have had at all otherwise. Bet you really appreciated that cup of tea!!

4:29 pm  
Anonymous Gimlet said...

Same as dogsbody said from me as well. Keep up the good work and thanks.

8:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto, you guys do such a fantastic job, sometimes in very difficult and trying circumstances.

Well done, and keep up the good work mate!

11:06 am  
Anonymous tjwood said...

Well done. Although do you mind if I ask why it was categorised as an Amber call?

7:52 pm  
Blogger Steve said...

we've had a rash of teenagers driving drunk down the wrong side of the road here recently, head on collisions seem to be an almost weekly occurence now.

The last one might have gotten the kids attention though; The district attorney charged the driver with two counts of Murder in the second degree, and the 5 kids who brought the liqour to the underage party with two count sof manslaughter each, and charged another 10 people with contributing to the delinquency of minors, and a whole bunch of other charges as well. I just dont understand people sometimes, why do they do these incredibly insipid things?

4:49 pm  
Blogger Steve said...

tjwood - I have no idea - I don't know what was said in the call, as I didn't get the call sent down to my MDT (the computer in the car). All I got was the location over the phone.

This does tend to happen more than we'd like it to (by we, I mean crews and call-takers alike)

11:40 pm  
Blogger Stan Still said...

What is it about drunks and trees? Of all the things to crash into, trees are one of the most dangerous. They don't budge an inch. Walls, road signs and other vehicles have some give in them, but a large tree will just stand there and take it.

On one stretch of road on my patch, there is a tree at the apex of a bend and within two weeks, two cars left the road and hit the tree, which is the only thing at the side of the road. Both ended up with fatalities and guess what? The drivers were over the limit.

11:24 pm  

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