Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Anatomy of a Car

I had 2 jobs today - that's on top of my 'day job' - and I'm knackered. I will write fully about the earlier job; this evening's one was just a little too intense to write down anything - maybe another time.

05:10 - 'phone rings, can I go to an RTA with person trapped, unconscious. Not a close job, in fact I am driving past GasPasser's house en route. I wonder fleetingly if he is away, and carry on. There is a water main leak, and for a moment I am aquaplaning, but the Quattro soon catches, and I am safely through.

05:19 - I arrive to see a solitary car, on its wheels (phew!), driven into a tree. The arbags have deployed. There is a man, sitting upright in the car, clearly not unconscious. An EMT is in the rear of the car, stabilising his neck. I approach, and am told that the crews are waiting for me for instruction. The issue: he cannot move his left arm or leg. This suggests a spinal injury, although it would be very unusual to have the effects confined solely to one side. Still, not a big deal; we will be taking the roof off and taking him out the rear of the vehicle on a spinal board, protecting his spine all the way. A quick chat with the fire officer with the white helmet, and I step back to let the fire crew do their thing.

They attack the "C" post. If you look at a standard 4 / 5 door car from the side, there are three posts; the "A" post between front door and windscreen, the "B" post between the front and rear doors, and the "C" post behind the rear door. Cut all six posts, remove the windscreen and the roof comes off. Or, cut "B" and "C" posts on both sides, make a small cut in the roof, and you can fold the roof forward. Nice and easy... ususally!

This was a nice, new car. Probably a year old, no more. The "C" post was cut with the Jaws of Life - no go. There are airbags in all sorts of places in new cars. Cut one of the cylinders feeding the airbag, and a small explosion is the result.

Ok, leave the "C" post and go for the "A". This was marginally more successful, but still took 20 minutes to get both of them done. This car was resisting the efforts of the fire crews big time.

"B" posts were next - after a VERY careul check for the ubiquitous airbag. Now 35 minutes in.

Small cuts to the rear of the roof, and the roof peel is completed - in reverse!

I look at the result - this is not going to be easy. Because the roof is at the rear of the wreckage, rather than in front, and because that is the way in which I want to bring the patient out, we are going to have to come out at an angle. And the doors are in the way. "Can you take the doors off, please?" I ask. A grunt is the reply from the fire officer. Another 6 or 7 minutes later the doors are added to the pile.

Right, let's get the board in behind the patient, and wind the seat flat. Oh. Electric seats. "Erm, can you cut the seat back, so that we can lie the patient flat?" I plead. Another grunt.

The lads attack the seat with a knife, and find - another airbag. What on Earth would this one do? An ejector seat, maybe? The crew cut the restraining bolts, and the seat reclines beautifully.

It's my turn!! I instruct members of the crew to take hold of various bits of clothing, so that they can slide him up the board. The one holding the head gives the count: "On three. Three, two, one!!" Huh?? Well, it worked, I suppose. We slide him out, smoothly, and lift him on to the ambulance trolley. I check him over - it looks like simple, but severe, bruising to the shoulder and hip. Better than a fractured spine!

I look at my watch. It's 6:45, and I am due in at 8 for a Ward Round. I look at my clothes: a pair of jeans and a Tigger t-shirt. Not going to go down well on the ward. So, I bade farewell to the patient and drive home. A quick cuddle, a change to more appropriate clothes, and I am out. On my way in to the Ward, I stop in to A&E and check up on my patient. He greets me with, "I recognise you. Where do I know you from?" Oh well.


  1. Ouch 30+k of car ruined. Id rather any doctor turned up in jeans looking relaxed than in a full suit.

  2. Oh, I don't wear a suit! M&S trousers and a short sleeved shirt.

  3. And, I can assure you, the car wasn't going to be going anywhere, even before we turned it into a convertible. Not that it ever makes a difference to how we get them out. If the car needs a chop, it gets a chop. Once cut up a police car, because the kind officer had sat the chap in the back of his police car, and had severe pain when we arrived. Try explaining that one back at the station!!