I passed many accidents over the years as most of us do, someone was already assisting those in need. In April 2012 we were packed up and moving to Michigan. My husband was a couple cars behind me, but still nearly half-a-mile. As I approached I noticed someone waving in the middle of the road. She had a white shirt on, so fortunately for her the color of her shirt helped with visibility.
I pulled around the downed power lines. I felt like I needed to move on, but I shouted to see if everyone was okay the reply was “NO”. I just couldn’t go on without helping. I didn’t know what I could do, but I was willing to try. Even if all I could do was hold someone’s hand and pray it was better than nothing. I thought if someone would bleed to death because I failed to stop I would never live with myself and that thought.
The car plowed through a pole and another sign coming to rest near a field with a shattered windshield and smoke pouring from under the hood. I pulled over and went to the driver’s side. When I opened the door I realized I couldn’t lean over to check on the driver so I closed the driver’s door.
I was thinking it was likely the driver had a head injury because she was having seizures and I didn’t want her to get out and start walking around. It was too early to evaluate the extent of injuries. I knew not to move her, but if her life was in jeopardy I also knew she would need to be moved. I don’t have that strength, and even though many say they have strength they didn’t think they had I didn’t have that experience and it was frustrating.
Upon entering the passenger side door I immediately unbuckled the seat belt knowing the car was smoking and potential for fire was high. I knew what I needed to do. The scariest thought was that I needed help because I could not move or lift anyone even if I needed to. I was looking for a miracle!
I climbed in the passenger side, removed what was left of her sunglasses and sat with the driver holding her hand and observing her seizures. When they ended I began asking her a couple of the most vital questions: Name, age, what happened and so on.
I observed the driver and asked one question at a time. It took her great thought to understand my questions and her responds were slow. Not at all unusual from someone who was recovering from seizures. Within a few minutes I did get her age and name, but didn’t know how reliable that information was. It was information I passed along to the police officers.
As I sat next to her checking her pupils and other observations I totally forgot about the smoking car. The driver was confused and in serious condition. My concentration was totally on her injuries and health status.
Then I heard someone yell “the car is in flames”. I didn’t hesitate to get out quickly, and just as I got to the driver’s side to see how I could remove her the fire department arrived. I was relieved to have the proper personnel at the scene.
I was a little disturbed that no one was helping, but how could they with power lines down? When the fire and police departments arrived the driver was removed from her vehicle and was being prepared to be air lifted to a trauma hospital. Metro-Health Life Flight was transporting her and they are exceptional trauma center. I knew she would be in good hands. I worked there!
As the person who witnessed the entire accident and the one who flagged me down spoke with me I finally realized no one gave the life flight nurses report of seizures at the scene and other observations. They didn’t receive any medical information. I guess the information late was better than not at all. It took me nearly 15 minutes before I realized I needed to report my findings! I felt stupid, but I’m not going to beat-up on my shortcomings.
When I realized I needed to report to Life Flight Nurses it came as second nature, even though I hadn’t worked for nearly 2 decades as a nurse. I had that one fleeting moment that I felt I was productive, and could function at a higher level than my usual days. I was clear and concise in passing on report, albeit late but accurate information that I knew would be essential to proper and urgent treatment.
It was passed on to me at a later date, that she had no permanent life-threatening injuries. This is a technical cliché that simply means she could very well have life-altering injuries, but her visible injuries were minimal. Unfortunately, we know all too much about traumatic brain injuries and if it’s not a visible injury it may not be treated or may be missed.
Here’s the question that came up many times while I was working and this is another situation like many others. Did the seizures cause the accident? Did she have seizures because of the accident? Where the seizures a sign of brain injury?
I mention this because many times this question would come up: Did they have an accident than the stroke? Or did they have a stroke than the accident? These problems usually remain undetermined. There is no way to know which one happened first. It is usually assumed at best. Unless it is witnessed, no one can determine these answers.
If anyone hesitates to stop at an accident and help, think about a loved one. Isn’t it better to hold someone’s hand than do absolutely nothing? Wouldn’t it be better to die with someone at your side, than alone?