I was fortunate enough to go to two bike rallies in one summer sometime in the 90’s I think. The first one was at Leavenworth Washington State and the second was Missoula Montana. I went across Highway 2 and it was a beautiful ride.
The reason I'm talking about it is I would like other opinions besides doctors, nurses and EMTs, because I disagree with them from what happened. I understand their side, but I still disagree. What do you say? Or, even better, what would you do?
I wrote this same article in our motorcycle magazines and basically got the same response as what everyone else is saying. And, yes, I did what everyone said I should have done, but to me, it was wrong on my part. What they said was it’s up to the person in charge (EMTs) at the time to do what they think is right. And I shouldn’t say a word if I disagree with what they are doing, even if what they are doing is wrong. I have had a lot of first aid training, so it’s not like I was totally inexperienced. But, I stayed quiet, I was shocked by what I saw and afterwards upset with myself. I don’t care if someone else was responsible, I feel I should have said something. So, here goes.
I'm riding through the mountains and just come out of the tree line and hit a straight stretch that was about two miles long. Only one car on the road, facing me on the right side of the road, they were just getting out of the car and started to wave me down. So, I pulled over. The road was high enough that the top of the trees were even with the road, so, about 80 feet up. And the trees were thick, and not just little bendable trees, but about 1-2 foot at the base. They were yelling at me that one of my fellow bikers just went off the cliff dodging a dear. Sorry folks, but if a dear crosses my path, I won’t veer away, I would hit squarely. If the rider was still alive it would be a miracle.
We went down the embankment with first aid kits, I have always carried a kit, and found the driver, he was still alive, said his wife was somewhere, so I started searching in a circular pattern to find her, it was very wooded and you couldn’t see any further then about 20 feet. I found his camp trailer stuck up in a tree just a little ways up it and kept looking. I found her. Okay, now you get the picture, they had to have bounced off some trees, ya think? So, give me your opinion, what is one of the most important things you can do when there is a possibility of someone maybe having their body bounced around and all broken up? Me, from what I have been trained to do, is check for blood and do not move them unless absolutely necessary because there may be a chance you could paralyze that person, and then be very careful and easy with them. The issue is coming shortly, of what happened, but your starting to get the drift?
When I got to her she was conscious and alert so I started talking to her to find out what condition she was in and looked at all the signs. Her eyes looked good, and then I asked her to not try and move, asked her if she had any where she thought she might be bleeding. She said no, but I still looked, asked where she hurt and if she could move her toes and fingers. She could. She said her arm hurt. I had a space blanket and put that over her to help her stay warm, then I mentioned I need to look at where her arm was hurting. She was wearing a leather jacket, which was smart, unzipped the cuff of her jacket but I needed under (inside) the sleeve, and asked her if it was okay to cut the inside of the arm part of the leather jacket, leather jackets have an extra piece under the zipper to help keep the cold out and she said yes. Once I did, (carefully) I could see she had a compound fracture, a bone sticking out of her arm. It wasn’t bleeding, so I wrapped it carefully and about that time, the EMTs showed up. They checked all that I had checked and then eight of us gently picked her up and placed her gently on the back board.
Now the problem. After being put on the backboard and before being strapped in, the head EMT said (without giving a reason, like, I need to check for blood and so forth), I need to remove here leather jacket. If anyone has a motorcycle accident, you do not remove the helmet, let the doctors do that, so they can take x-rays to verify no broken neck or bones. And I felt, with what she had to have gone through, the same holds true for any clothing unless they are bleeding. So, he gets his hands under her shoulders, lifts her upper torso so she is in a sitting position, crying out in pain (and was okay while lying on the board), then proceeds to remove her jacket.
I almost went into shock. She really started to cry out then. He did not do anything else but lay her back down on the board and then they strapped her in and we carried her to the road. And, I know that this was just the one EMT, and only one instance and that most EMTs wouldn’t ever do that, but, and, I sat in the ambulance for 20 minutes with the injured couple, them laying on those hard backboards ,talking to them, and I finally left, all their friends were there by then. Why didn’t the ambulance leave as soon as they were put in it? I don’t know.
PS; I ran into the group in Montana that they were actually with, and they said they were doing better, and that she was in traction.
So, any comments? Was I wrong in not saying anything? Not that it’s my or anyone's place to be watching and correcting someone who is in charge, but, I personally feel I should have said something this time. I sure would have wanted someone to say something if I was on that board, and if I would have been, I would have asked him why? And the answer had better be the correct and right answer. Otherwise, I would have told him to take a long hike out in that forest. If a person’s life could be affected, their entire life, then I think I should have said something.
Yes, that person in charge is responsible, but will that correct the mistake if there is permanent damage? I say yes, I was wrong in not saying anything.
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Thank you for sharing this very intense story. This is just my citizen opinion.
First and foremost, you acted as a good citizen first responder and helped the injured woman as the first on the scene. This couple was very lucky to have a competent first aid first responder in you in. I would imagine you appeared as a gift from God in what was certain to be one of their darkest moments. They had to know their lives were at risk. You were the life line.
It is hard to get traumatic events compartmentalized. Even the best first responders can hold onto trauma in the form PTSD. The fact that you think about this still speaks volumes to the trauma surrounding this event. It is understandable.
Know this; you are a hero that should not be kicking himself for taking issue with the EMT. You did everything right. After the government arrives, they are lawfully in charge, and most likely a medical disagreement would have slowed down getting the couple to an emergency room.