This month I am choosing to do a little different article. This article is going to be not only directly from the heart but also give you the realization of what happens, how people react, and the events that can occur in any emergency situation.
This event happened on October 9, 2015. I drive many miles on a monthly basis and travel the entire state of Arkansas and surrounding states; in fact it is not uncommon for me to log at least 500 miles in a week. I have seen many wrecks, and as my duty to act, I have stopped and assisted at several while emergency personnel were in route. On this particular day, it was misting (not a full rain and messy enough to use windshield wipers) I was headed home on Interstate 40 when my automatic response kicked in. When I say automatic response, I have made it a habit when driving, if I have to apply hard pressure to my breaks and come to an abrupt stop, my hand automatically goes to turn my flashers on letting the people behind me know something is going on. –Once I activated my flashers – I seen it all happen.
I had just witnessed a wreck. Noting uncommon for a wet road and a wreck to happen on the interstate, right? Well I witnessed from start to finish and assisted at this accident and it affected me emotionally. Out of all the training classes I have attended, taught, disaster cases I worked with the Red Cross, this wreck affected me emotionally more than any other. I have been teaching classes since 2007 and this is the first time I assisted and everything that was done at the scene was not enough.
There was a five car accident with eight individuals involved. A semi hit a van, the van was knocked into another lane and hit two other vehicles and another vehicle was damaged in the efforts to get stopped in time. The majority of the injuries were minor with a few people transported to the local hospital to ensure they were ok, due to neck pain, leg pain and even a potentially broken nose. The van that was impacted by the semi had six people (I call them kids, all six were in their early 20s) who had been working out of town/state and they were 45 miles from being home. The driver and the passenger got out without a scratch on them. The two kids in the middle of the van were basically ok, one had a busted nose and a little bit of bleeding but no big deal. Basic first aid was needed and that was it. The two kids in the back of the van were injured by the impact, trapped and had to be extricated from the vehicle.
When calling 911, sometimes there are jurisdiction issues and when dispatching emergency personnel maybe a little tricky. Since this happened on the interstate, state troopers were dispatched as well as highway patrol since a semi-truck was involved. This accident also happened on a county line where the county dispatch for the side were on was further away than the county we had not crossed over into yet was located. Fire and ambulance were dispatched 20 miles away when the closes neighboring county was 10 miles away. Would it have made a difference if the ambulance got there sooner? No one will ever know.
During the 20 minutes it took the emergency personnel to arrive there was a group of people that assisted in this accident that was amazing. And when I say amazing, you could not have had a better group of good Samaritans stop on the side of the interstate to assist in this accident. I was first on scene as an instructor of CPR, First Aid, Disaster Preparedness to name a few things and the lady in the car behind me was a Registered Nurse, behind her was an off duty police officer and then another lady in scrubs who to this day I believe was a nurse. Between the four of us, we were able to do so much for the victims who were not seriously injured and focus on the two more seriously injured victims. But, with the four of us, we did not have enough hands to do what needed to be done. We had four kids who just had a bad accident and two of their co-workers were still trapped in the van. We needed two more good Samaritans to stop and at least comfort and talk to the kids while more experience people worked on the wounds needed attending to on the other victims.
When fire and rescue arrived, my job was to simply keep one victim calm and try to keep him from going into shock while the individual next to him was cut out of the van due to more serious injuries. When you talk about keeping someone from going into shock, it is almost like a replay event. When I say replay event, picking out meaningful questions so they can answer and giving a command to act. I asked several questions and at the end of the questions, I would say “now I need you to squeeze my hands”.
He was able to do this and in between cycles he would begin to panic. I assured him when he heard the sirens, that it meant they were coming to assist and get him out, I assured him when he heard the “jaws of life” that meant they were cutting metal to help get him out and when he heard responders talking behind him, that it meant they were getting closer to getting him out. He felt comfort in my holding his hands, asking those questions and reporting on all the things going on he was hearing while he was stuck in the van. I was assisting with this life saving first aid through a tiny back window on the side of the van where he was sitting. There was no other way to assist him other than be there standing and let the emergency workers work around me, which they gladly did.
As for the other young man in the car, he was severely injured, unresponsive, excessive bleeding and head trauma, there were two individuals working on him, he coded, brought him back through the efforts of CPR. He was severely injured enough that the Paramedics did call for med flight for transport. Once everyone was out of the vehicle and in route to getting the appropriate medical care they needed, I proceeded to clean myself off after the ordeal and at that point completing an eyewitness statement myself and a couple of the other good Samaritans started talking and to this day I do not know who the nurse was nor the off duty police officer but I wanted to thank them from the bottom of my heart for assisting and in my way of doing this I made a very, very generic statement on Facebook. I wanted to keep the anonymity of who was involved, where the accident happened etc.
I just want to caution everyone that anonymity is important when assisting in severe injuries as well as protecting yourself. Protection for yourself is not only when you assess a situation / scene but when the event is over. So remember, take a class, get prepared, and seek assistance if needed after the event.