When recently (seven weeks ago) we saw certain of our heroes, the trauma team, in the Trauma Room, I had just unveiled an item of interest for them: “I give my report in the trauma room. I feel bad to say so but I feel almost like a celebrity chef unveiling a master dish when I finally unveil the man’s grotesquely deformed limb. “Open tib-fib fracture,” I say with a flourish. Here is my own description of the injury at the crash scene: “I look down at his legs. I see jagged bone ends. His right foot is upside down next to his considerably shortened right leg, hanging by a thin margin of skin and muscle.”
In EMS there is a certain lack of sequel. This can be good — you do your call and your work is done. But it can also be frustrating — you do your call, but you never hear the resolution. Every now and then, you hear the rest of the story.
We are sent to a local convalescent home for dsypnea. The medical dispatch tells us an x-ray shows an infiltrate. Big deal, I am thinking. I am precepting a new medic and this call does not promise to be anything more than another routine ALS call, which seems to be all we are getting this week. The patient, a large man lies in bed, with an oxygen cannula on. I notice the steel halo contraption on his right leg, but think nothing of it. I am thinking look at those scars. I wonder what happened to this guy as I vaguely listen to the nurse give my preceptee the report about his low grade fever and increasing dsypnea today.
“Were you in a car accident a number of weeks back?” my partner asks.
The man grunts.
“Was it a car into a tree?”
The man grunts again.
“We took care of you! That was quite a crash!”
The man’s wife gives a reserved smile, but then says, “The accident is still a sore point with him.”
“I have to tell you,” my partner says. “You’re husband’s legs look a lot better now than they did that day.”
I’m thinking the same thing.
“I’m amazed you still have them.” He runs his fingers along the man’s leg. “I thought you’d lost this one for sure. It was just dangling there by a strand. The other one wasn’t too much prettier.”
The man does not look happy to be reminded. But my partner is beaming. “They did good work on these!”
“They want him up and trying to walk in a couple weeks,” his wife says.
I keep staring at the legs myself. All back together. Able to wiggle his toes. Wow. You know for all the times I get annoyed by the trauma team or think they are chaotic or rude, I have to say, they did a hell of a job here. Kudos. We gently move the man over onto our stretcher, careful not to bang the leg — we treat it like a work of art, like a fragile sculpture by Michelangelo.
“Thank you,” the wife whispers to us as we wheel the patient out the door.