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Paramedic’s Corner: There’s no such thing as a good car crash
Paramedic’s Corner: There’s no such thing as a good car crash

Gary Carmack
Car wrecks are a scary thing. Those of us EMTs and paramedics who have been around awhile can always tell the rookies, the ones who can’t wait to work a “good” car wreck. When I am somewhere and hear that, I always know that I am hearing a rookie, a person who hasn’t seen much death and dismemberment, or a quite foolish person. When I tell them my favorite car wreck is a dry run, I’m sure they think I’m just lazy. They’ll learn after a few years.

Car wrecks or crashes, appropriately termed motor vehicle crashes (MVC), remain the number one killer of young people in our nation. This never changes from year to year. Try as we may to change things and prevent these horrible wrecks, the deaths, brain and spinal cord injuries just keep coming.

So how can we prevent these crashes, and how can you protect yourself and your loved ones?

I write frequently about slowing down, wearing safety restraints, being attentive, and not driving under the influence of mind-altering substances or riding with anyone who is under the influence of any mind-altering substance, be it alcohol, legal prescriptions, or illegal drugs. But we know a lot of people simply just don’t pay any attention, so what can we do to protect ourselves and our loved ones? I often think about a chapter in the Bible in Ephesians 6:11-17: “Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil ... having on the breastplate of righteousness ... the shield of faith ... the helmet of salvation ... and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” I like to call it “putting on your armour to survive our highways.” Using the metaphor, surviving on our highways means putting on safety restraints, driving slower, and being attentive, which becomes our armour, our helmet, and so on. For our kids, if we can at least persuade them to wear restraints, slow down, and never, ever drive under the influence or ride with someone under the influence of mind-altering substances, this alone could save their lives.

People sometimes will ask, “What is the worst car wreck you ever seen?” Well, they are all bad. I’ve been working car wrecks since I was 20 years old and the only good ones are the ones that don’t happen, so we get canceled enroute because it wasn’t actually a wreck or we are told by someone that no one is hurt. That’s as long as the information is correct. Once in a while, we get canceled when someone is actually hurt or sick. Those out in “Scannerville,” when you hear us being so diligent and adamant regarding this, please remember it is our moral and lawful duty to ensure the patient actually canceled the ambulance. The cancellation must be legitimate. We have been canceled by well-meaning people on the scene and later called back to a serious injury or illness, sometimes one that is life-threatening. People who are not educated in appropriate patient assessment can easily make an error resulting in disastrous outcomes for patients.

Once we were canceled enroute to a call, and unknown to us, the person was in a life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) condition. The person’s glucose level was in the low 30s. Thank goodness for an alert firefighter who was at the scene! The firefighter asked the person a few of the right questions and discovered he was a diabetic. Others at the scene thought he was merely drunk. The firefighter immediately recalled us. This saved the man’s life. Diabetes, many times, emulates intoxication.

One hopes presenting public education will prevent some of these tragedies. I just don’t know how well we are doing, though, when I see how so many nice, civilized, decent people become such monsters when they get behind the wheel. All you have to do is drive Highway 7, Highway 28, Highway T, or Highway Y and observe the danger. Drive any of those and drive normally and try to follow the speed limit. People will pass you on blind hills and curves, tailgate you, cross over the median coming head-on.

Even in town, just this last week at the top of the Waynesville hill, where two lanes merge into one, a young man going to lunch literally forced me over to the side of the road. He was flying, doing about 60 to 65 mph. I guess he was hungry. I would tell the readers the good words I said to him as he flew by, but my editor would have to cut it; besides, my good mother reads this column and our dear, dear friend up at Lexington who is just recovering from cancer faithfully reads my column weekly.

Please be careful everyone, and put on your armour, because spring is coming and this always initiates what we call “Trauma Season.” So wear your safety restraints, slow down, and watch out for those hungry drivers at lunch time.

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