Monday, 4 July 2016

A reason for that

Have you ever heard the advice that if you're ever in a car accident, do not get out of your car and just stay in it until help arrives?  I've heard countless police officers give that advice, but unlike most people I encounter the police regularly.  No, not while I'm driving.  Unless you're either in my position or are a police officer yourself, I certainly hope you don't have regular meetings with the police because if you do, you have a serious problem.  Anyway, they know a thing or two about traffic safety, so they happen to be experts in the field.  So why do they say that?

Instead of me teaching you, let's allow Alfred (not his real name™) to be your guide.

Alfred is a normal, average 28-year old guy - healthy, gainfully employed, and not too bright.  He was on his way to work one bright sunny morning when he had some car trouble.  Unfortunately this did not occur on a quiet neighbourhood street, but rather on a main thoroughfare where the speed limit is somewhere between 100 and 120 kph.  Alfred had a mobile phone, but instead of calling for help, he decided to get out and take a look.

I should also specify that Alfred does not work with cars or know anything about cars (as I found out later), so he should have no idea why his should have suddenly stalled.  Still, out he went to take a gander.

Unfortunately for Alfred, very little makes for better drive-time ogling than a stalled, smoking car on the side of the road.  One particular driver was paying more attention to checking to see if Alfred was a young lady (he most assuredly is not), and by the time his eyes got back on the road, he was too late to avoid the car in front of him, which had also slowed down to look at the smoking car.  So he swerved . . . right into Alfred.

Before I go on, let's do a little thought experiment.  Think of the height of an average car's front bumper.  That happens to be exact height of the average man's tibia.  And as I mentioned earlier, Alfred was an average guy.  Now think what might happen if a car bumper were to impact a tibia at high speed, keeping in mind that the average tibia is not anywhere close to as strong as the average car's bumper so . . .

NOT Alfred's leg
Ouch.  That is not Alfred's tibia - his actually looked worse.

When Alfred arrived, there was a large gauze pad with a large blood stain in the middle covering his left leg.  Blood outside the body is never a good sign, but even worse than blood outside the body is bone outside the body.  I moved the gauze away to see the fragmented end of his tibia staring back at me.  Although he may not have felt lucky at the time, Alfred was incredibly lucky that the car was slowing down when it hit him, because this was his only injury.

The police officer interviewing him in the trauma bay asked him why he got out of the car.  Alfred gave some silly excuse about trying to figure out the problem, even though he admitted he knew nothing whatsoever about cars.  The officer then told him that he should have stayed in his car.

"I know, officer.  I know.  But I just didn't want my girlfriend to think I didn't know anything about cars."

Sigh.  The things we do for love.

The orthopaedic surgeon took him to the operating theatre a few short hours later where, after cleaning up the wound, he inserted a titanium rod into the shaft of the tibia.  Alfred was up and walking the next day, and he walked out of the hospital the day after that.

But not before learning an invaluable lesson - when an expert gives you advice that could save your life (or limb), take it.

19 comments:

  1. Here in Northern California I have read of a few police officers that stopped behind a car on the highway and get out to talk to the person that stayed in their stalled car, they themselves get plowed into by some person rubber necking.
    Mary

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    Replies
    1. I've seen that personally. It's a very dangerous job those folks have.

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  2. Can I have the name of that orthopedic surgeon?

    My nephew was hit by a car making a left turn in front of his motorcycle. The lady apparently didn't see him until it was too late. He was thrown from the bike and knocked completely out of his shoes. He was taken by air ambulance to the nearest Level 1 Trauma center where he remains over a week later. He had compound fractures of both bones in his lower right leg. He's already had three surgeries and is facing several more to repair nerve damage. He also needed a vascular surgeon to restore blood flow since the bones severed the supply.

    Do to swelling they couldn't even close his wound until a week after the accident. He still has drainage tubes and the leg might need to be amputated due to the extensive nerve damage and compromised blood supply.

    Needless to say he won't be walking on that leg for quite some time.

    Luckily he was wearing a helmet which protected his skull from the pavement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh man. I just had something similar happen to someone in my family.

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    2. Doc B. won't be able to give you a recommendation to a specific surgeon, as that might reveal his location and leave him open to breaches of confidentiality.
      - L

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    3. I wasn't expecting an answer, just trying to understand how one person with a compound tib-fib fracture can get up and walk the next day and another requires multiple surgeries with no end in sight.

      Delete
    4. The same way one person with pneumonia may be walking around and only feeling pretty terrible while another may be hospitalised and require intensive care.

      Delete
  3. I confess that if my car was smoking I would be very tempted to get out myself. The energy in 40 litres of gasoline is significant.

    Good story as every Doc'

    Ugi

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    Replies
    1. If there's a fire, or smoke, then and only then is it reasonable to get out. But get well away from the car, and away from the road as far as possible, with the disabled car between you and the road. Then face oncoming traffic so that if anyone does end up crashing into the disabled car, you are aware of it and can run away if necessary.

      Don't be this person:
      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=d33_1455228278&comments=1

      Delete
    2. But the Doc' did say "smoking". Twice.

      Don't dispute the "get the hell away from the carriageway" aspect. UK roads are not usually so fast but on motorways (our equivalent of freeways) the advice is head up the embankment because then you have gravity and a stretch of armco on your side also!

      Ugi

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    3. If my car were smoking, I'd get far away from it, which is exactly what Alfred did not do.

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    4. I bet he was pretty far away from it after the other car hit him, though.

      He just found an alternative route to the solution.

      Delete
    5. I bet he was pretty far away from it after the other car hit him, though.

      He just found an alternative route to the solution.

      Delete
  4. A couple of years ago, there was an early winter snow storm and a young lady (18 years old) was involved in a minor traffic accident on the highway. She got out of her vehicle and was hit by another car and killed. Her passenger had stayed in the vehicle and was unscathed. It was so sad that such a young person lost her life for making a mistake like that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. the other reason for remaining with your vehicle is that if you go away, we then have to LOOK for you, because we don't know you're not lying crumpled in a ditch a dozen furlongs away.

    plus we automatically assume that if you leave the scene you are in a hurry to go find some alcohol to render your BAC readings invalid.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Besides all these good sense reasons already mentioned, another that's particularly important is the need to avoid exposure to extreme weather conditions, in situations where that's a factor. Here in my part of the world (midwest, USA) we have both extremes...subzero temps in the winter, and triple digit degrees during at least part of the summer.

    Obviously, if your car has had a mechanical failure that renders the ventilation system inoperable, your wait will be much less comfortable than it would be without the AC during summer, or the heat during winter. Still, staying inside the vehicle will offer you at least *some* degree of protection that you certainly *won't* have if you attempt to walk some distance in extreme weather.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. we had one of those. call on an icy morning for a vehicle of the road. on the way, we were flagged down by a motorist who told us the occupants were trapped in the vehicle - so we called for the extrication crew.

      when we got on scene, we found "trapped in the vehicle" meant sitting in the car with the heat on while they waited for the tow truck to get them back onto the road.

      Delete
    2. So...we're "trapped" whenever we're temporarily inconvenienced by waiting? ROFL.

      Delete
  7. apparently the passer-by confused "can't get out" with "it's warm inside"

    ReplyDelete

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