I worked as the night manager at a large Kansas City hospital, although not a nurse, I was trained in CPR and first aid. I was expected to do anything that needed to be done from guiding rescue helicopters in, holding a broken leg together as it was stabilized and routinely pushing dead bodies to the morgue.
I drive just under 1000 miles in an average week. I see more accidents and near misses than most drivers. I count my blessings each and every time I safely make it to my destination. Saturday morning, Lauren and I were on a huge push to clean up, pack up and throw away all stray items in our little house in preparation for the house going on the market. We had worked late Friday night organizing things into three piles; save/pack, save/donate and just throw away.
We packed up all the donations stuff and headed towards town where we were going to run by the donation center and visit my mom. Just as we turned off our road on the highway to town, we immediately saw a battered red car smoking in the lane in front of us and a totally trashed white pickup also billowing smoke in the ditch a little further down. It was bad, you could just tell.
I pulled my car up on the side of road, instructed Lauren to call 911 and set off to see what I could do to help. There was one man struggling to get out of the white pickup truck. I urged him to move away from the truck (I was afraid the gas tank would blow and we would all be dead) and as he did, we got him lying down on the pavement. I left Lauren with him and I headed to the red car. One young man was staggering down the shoulder of the road with lacerations covering his face. He was missing a shoe and his pants (not really clear how that happened-nor do I want to think about it much). I got him lying down as well. It was cold with a bitter wind rolling across the county. Suddenly, I remembered our Goodwill things. I sent Lauren racing back to car to get the sheets and comforters that we had planned to donate to Goodwill to cover the injured men as they lay on the road. Lauren reported that her man had a bone protruding from his leg and his belly was swelling fast. My laceration boy was totally out of it. He knew his name (Chris) but was not oriented to time or place. I just got blank stares as I asked him over and over if he knew where he was or what month it was. The driver of the red car who witnesses said just drifted into the oncoming traffic and hit the white pickup head-on at 65 miles per hour was largely unhurt. He would walk by Chris and apologize on a regular basis. At one point he opened his wallet and countless one hundred-dollar bills took flight in the wind. He scampered around to catch them all and stuff them back in his wallet.
Although covered with the sheets and blankets, both victims started to get shocky quickly. Lauren’s patient was losing ground with life rapidly. I was very proud of Lauren. Blood is not her best thing, but she stayed by her patient, comforting him and keeping him quiet. I suspect he had a collapsed lung and possibly a ruptured spleen from his quickly expanding abdomen and increased shortness of breath.
Lauren and I just keep telling both Chris and Anton (the pickup driver) to hang on, help was coming. Chris became agitated several times and it was a challenge to keep him down on the pavement. I suspect he had a serious head injury and also neck and back issues. Lauren kept Anton talking best he could to keep him calm. He told us his wife was out-of-town and no one would know how to reach her. He was so worried about his truck. I think he had a lot more to worry about, but Lauren kept his mind off the horrible injuries he had sustained.
I felt a little like the M*A*S*H* team, understaffed, overwhelmed and undersupplied. After almost 20 minutes, the first ambulance teams showed up. I gave them report on the patients just as I had years ago. They threw me a pair of plastic gloves which I put on (there was a lot of blood). Then it was decided that both patients needed to be Life Flighted out to Houston. Anton had quizzed Lauren on the local hospital. Houston was a much better destination for both patients.
It was interesting that no one, not the police, the fire fighters, the paramedics or anyone else questioned what my daughter and I were doing with these people, sitting alongside them as they laid in the road. I feel in Houston, we would have been given a quick thank you and run off when the teams first arrived, but not here.
Probably 40 minutes after the wreck, and with Anton’s condition continuing to deteriorate, we suddenly heard Life Flight approaching from the north. I had another flash back to my hospital night shift years and the helicopter landings from my youth. The EMTs showed up with the back board, again not questioning me or my credentials (or lack thereof), they rolled the patient (Chris) on his side, I pushed the board under him and helped adjust down the straps and off he went, covered with Amber’s childhood Strawberry Shortcake sheets.
Lauren helped with Anton and the copter was off, raising off in the blue sky. We headed to our car, said prayers for both men and drove on our way.