Friday, July 22, 2005


The intern came running up to the OR, "Hey man, this guy in the ER looks really bad."

A man, working on a local highway not too far from the hospital, had just come in to the emergency room, holding a bloody pile of rags to his left armpit.

A car that was passing by the roadsite worksite failed to slow down and drove over some ropes laying on the ground. One of the ends of the rope got kicked up and tangled in the axle of the car, and was carried with the car as it sped on past the work site at 60 miles per hour. The other end of the rope was attached to a piece of machinery, and a worker was holding this particular rope under his left arm to brace it as he was hoisting the piece of machinery up to a platform.

As the car drove off with the rope attached to it, it tore through the worker's arm pit, ripping through his work clothes and shredding the underlying tissue. The driver of the car stopped when he felt his car lurch as the piece of machinery on the other end of the rope fell to the ground and dragged behind him. By this time, the damage had been done and the worker was in shock.

When we finally got him up to the OR to examine the damage under general anesthesia, I noticed that the underlying muscle and blood vessels were amazingly intact. Given the extensive damage to his skin and subcutaneous tissues, I thought for sure he may have needed an amputation. All of us in the OR stood around dumbfounded. A one in a million chance that there was no underlying structural damage. He did need extensive debridement of his wound and required a bit of tissue rearrangement to get his wound closed, but he would keep his arm. And after some intense physical and occupational therapy, he would regain complete function of his arm as well.

As I was sewing up my patient, I got to thinking of the numerous times I didn't heed the warnings of slowing down for roadside workers and speeding by, thinking I had to make good time and that I couldn't really afford to slow down. Of if I did slow down, it definitely wasn't enough. Seeing what could happen was a sobering eye opener.

The driver of the car ran from the scene. The police are still looking for him.