When seconds count, the helicopter is only 15 minutes away
Several years ago, while I was in Sturgis for the annual bike rally, I took a casual ride down Vanocker Canyon Road toward Nemo. I stayed on Nemo Road northwest heading for Highway 385 to Deadwood. It had just stopped raining and I pulled over to stow my rain gear and continue riding. I was bout two miles past Benchmark, and entered a sweeping curve to the right. As I cleared the curve, I noticed bikes pulling over to the side of the road on the other side of the highway. I moved over as far as I could on the right and activated my red strobes (I was riding a 2005 Police Road King with lights and siren).
I approached a group of people and saw two men attending to a person laying on the ground. It turns out the rider took the curve hot and swerved into the metal guard rail. The two guys assisting him turned out to be a couple of paramedics on vacation from Ohio. They did not have any trauma gear so I shared some nitrile gloves with them and used my trauma shears to cut the rider’s jeans exposing a crushed tibia and fibula. His right leg was de gloved from the knee down with all the skin accumulating in his engineer boot. We stabilized his leg and because he was bleeding severely, I affixed a tourniquet just above his knee using a triangular bandage. Someone else had called for an ambulance and they arrived about 10 minutes into the scene. The rider was conscious and quiet and I think he was in mild shock. The EMT’s called for a helicopter to airlift the patient to Rapid City, but it took 15 minutes for the helicopter to arrive. Then, there was no place to land safely on the two lane road near the crash scene so they flew back to an intersection with an intersecting road about a quarter mile east of us.
I do not know the outcome of this incident, but fear the rider may have lost his leg due to the injury he sustained. I do know that by stopping the bleeding with the make shift tourniquet we may have saved his life. This crash is a good example of the importance of having trauma training and having supplies with you. We didn’t use any bandages other than draping some sterile dressings over the open wound to keep dirt and debris from it. The triangle bandage tourniquet worked as well as any combat style professional tourniquet (which I now carry in all my trauma packs). Nobody else at that scene had any medical gear, including the two paramedics from Ohio. It was 10 minutes before the ambulance arrived and the minimal gear I had that day was sufficient to treat the rider and stop the bleeding. The two-man ambulance crew was happy to accept our help in placing the man on a long board and lifting him into the ambulance. They transported him to the waiting helicopter for his flight to Rapid City.
Please consider taking the Accident Scene Management Course offered by Road Guardians, and carry proper gear to manage bleeding, broken bones, respiratory problems and medical conditions like diabetic emergencies and other life threatening conditions. You never know what you’ll find around that next curve in the highway.
Article by Nino