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Training exercise practice for rescuers, reminder for survivor

May 20, 2010|By DON AINES
  • Morgan McCartney
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HAGERSTOWN -- Standing among a handful of observers Thursday, Morgan McCartney watched as firefighters and EMS personnel cut a mannequin from the crumpled wreckage of a sedan in a parking lot at Robinwood Medical Center.

"I'm living proof that seat belts save lives," the 19-year-old Mercersburg, Pa., woman said.

McCartney, an accounting clerk at the medical center, was badly injured in a crash four years ago near Fort Loudon, Pa.

"I had a broken femur. I have a rod and pins in my leg. I fractured my pelvis in four places. I had a broken tail bone, my right wrist was broken. I had a facial fracture, a ruptured bladder and a lip laceration," McCartney said, running down the list of injuries she had as a passenger in a car hit by another vehicle.

McCartney knows something about trauma, as did the members of the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. and Hagerstown Community Rescue Service who were putting on the vehicle extraction demonstration at the medical center for National Trauma Awareness Month.

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"It takes a good bit of training to do this," Funkstown Lt. Jerry Keplinger said.

An array of spreaders, cutters and other hydraulic tools were spread on a tarpaulin as the fire and rescue personnel prepared to remove the "victim" from a car donated by Blue & Gray Towing and Recovery.

The firefighters stabilized the vehicle with wooden chocks, flattened the tires to further stabilize the car and sawed out the windshield before prying off the doors and cutting the roof away. Keplinger said the fire company has to use this equipment once or twice a month at accident scenes.

The numbers vary from year to year, but the emergency room at Washington County Hospital sees about 600 to 1,100 trauma cases at year, Administrative Director for Trauma Dr. Karl Riggle said. The number was about 800 last year, perhaps due to reduced travel related to the struggling economy, he said.

Of that 800, about one-fourth of the cases are the result of traffic accidents, said Trauma EMS Manager Susie Burleson said. Falls, stabbings, shootings, boating accidents and other accidental or intentional acts make up the rest of the cases, she said.

"We've got a variety of things we can do in the community that can get people hurt," Riggle said. "The vast majority of trauma patients are under 45 (years old)."

"You've got to be able to take care of all comers," Riggle said.

Speed counts, as well, with the expected arrival time for a trauma surgeon at the medical center being less than 15 minutes from the time they are called, he said.

Perhaps the best way of cutting down the carnage on the roads is for all drivers and passengers to be properly restrained by seat belts or child safety seats, Burleson said. Wearing seat belts reduces the risk of dying in a crash by 60 percent or more, she said.

Seat belts did not keep McCartney from serious injury, but they did keep her inside the car, she said. Otherwise she might not have survived, she said.

A medevac helicopter was to have participated in the exercise, but was called out on a real emergency. McCartney remembered her ride in one four years ago from Chambersburg (Pa.) Hospital to Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center.

To see her, it would be difficult to tell she was sedated for four days after the crash as she underwent several surgeries, or that she spent two years in therapy. Morgan said she can dance again, but the healed fractures have given her something else.

"I can forecast the weather now, too," she said.

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