Friday, February 15, 2013


Ok, let's do this thing before it slips away.  I can only assume that dragging this thing out has probably been no fun for you, dear friends...and delaying has actually been a bit emotionally disastrous for me, it turns out (more about that at the end of the post). 
So, without further ado, her we go.

Last Sunday the 10th, I participated in a staged emergency event called Rolling Chaos.

TheMostImportantGuy is an exec at a private training company that, among other things, has nursing and EMT courses. Rolling Chaos was a disaster drill they hosted.  The more senior students acted as rescue and hospital staff, and more junior students were there as accident victims. Students came from all over to participate as there are multiple campuses in Northern California.   Branches of the military were also there to train, as well as medical helicopter transport and ambulance companies.

There was no real reason for me to be there. I just sort of inserted myself ;-)  LOL

Actually, when I first heard about this, I thought it was just so awesome. I have in the past been paid to do role-playing scenarios for medical students, acting as a patient that has a set of symptoms that needs to be diagnosed. It was really very interesting. So when I heard about this, I asked TheMIG to introduce me to the event coordinators (which he did at the company holiday party) so that I could ask them if I could participate in the role of....waaaaaaait for amputee. (ba-da--bum) 

I was pretty sure I could add to the realism (although my personal goal, I admitted, was to freak out some poor unsuspecting student). They though it was an awesome idea.

So Sunday morning TheMIG and I got up at 4:30am, left the house by ten minutes to 5, and were at the campus by 6. I signed in and was sent directly to "moulage" so I could be made up to look like an accident victim.

I knew I didn't need much help.
What they gave me was a nylon stocking that I put on over my ShortSexyLeg. At the end of the nylon stocking was a pretty horrific looking rubber chunk made to look like the meat and bones.  It was gruesome.  I have a photo of me standing there on one leg smiling and laughing even though I am standing there with my meaty leg ripped off, but don't dare post it here. I fear it would upset your delicate sensibilities.

They also gave me a big sports bottle with a squirt hose that was full of fake blood, and I rigged that up down into my pant leg so that I could squeeze it during the simulation and spurt blood everywhere when I was being rescued. 

After being made up, TheMIG and I went out to check out the drill site.

These photos represent just a very small bit of the entire scene. There were many many vehicles involved in this massive car pile up, and there were hundreds of injured people.  The drill was run twice, and both times I was in the white overturned vehicle in the first photo there.  For the first drill, I wedged my short leg underneath an overturned backseat of the car that had another injured body in it, so they'd have to lift him off me, and then the chair off me, and then, when they could finally get me out, they'd see...SURPRISE! I missing leg! And I'd be spurting all over.

I know. Sorry. LOL

Ok. Here's me trapped in the car.

I look pretty peaceful, don't I?  Almost like I'm sleeping. Actually, this was taken between the time we were put in place and waiting before the drill begin. I was just chillin' when this was taken. Literally chillin'. It was 34 degrees at that point, I had removed my jacket because of the fake blood squirting on me, as I wasn't sure the goop would wash out.  Not only was I cold, I was damp from said goop, and I am positive that this contributed to my coming down with a cold by Sunday night. Being handled by so many people in a fake hospital environment prolly didn't help none either ;-)

I'm assuming you know this about me, but if you are new here, maybe you don't.

I lost my leg in a car accident. A real one.

Of course it wasn't 'til a day or two before this staged event that I wondered silently to myself (and out loud to others), "Hmmmm....maybe this wasn't such a good idea for me."  Even MyFavoriteKid was like, "Are you sure you should be doing this?? Isn't it going to stress you out?"

Well, I was fine the whole day. I didn't have flashbacks or anxiety or anything, and I like to think I did a really good thing by performing my civic duty and preparing these EMT students for the real goddamned world.

I milked the roll, lemme tell ya'.  Like I said, most of the  other accident "victims" were first semester nursing students.  Several of them were trapped in the car with me.  They were really good at playing the role of moaning or screaming in pain, and if that didn't work, they played unconscious. But I worked it a little bit differently (mwahaha). My goal was to say what really gets said by someone (well, me) in this sort of situation, and I was most positive that I'd be saying things the EMT's would not be prepared to hear. I'll try to illustrate, but much will be lost without the tone, I fear.

So when drill number one started running, here's how it went. The EMT's ran around tying tags onto each of us that they circled with how bad off we were.

That would be me. IMMEDIATE. One level below dead.

So I got tagged, the EMT's ran, so they could keep on tagging!  I hate to say it, but ohhhhh brotherrrrrrr!  I am dying! I need help! And, like...Now!  I do not need a piece of paper tied to me that says I have a life threatening injury! I need you to do something so my life is less threatened!

Just my own humble opinion. LOL

So since they left me laying there bleeding out, I hammed it up.  My cohorts in my car were howling and moaning, but every time I saw uniformed legs running past the car, I'd say something loud enough for the rescue crew to hear. Something like....
"Pleeeeeease. Please don't leave me."
"Help me, I'm stuck."
"My leg is stuck. Come back! Just help me move this! I can't feel my leg."
"I'm scared. Don't leave. I don't want to die."
Shit like that ;-)

The poor EMTs who had been instructed to tag every patient first (?) could only give me this horrible look, and they'd try to say something comforting like, "we'll be with you in a moment," and they'd look positively freaked, but they'd keep moving and tagging.  Now, at some point during one of my "I'm stuck" rants at one of the uniformed legs walking by, one instructor stuck his head in the car and said, "Yah. You are stuck alright. And I'd say pretty screwed, too."  LOLOL  And somewhere in one of my "I don't want to die," speeches, another one of the instructors was walking through the scene, and he looked in the car, and whispered to me, "You probably will die. I think A LOT of people are going to die today."

I was trapped in the car a loooong time.  And when the EMT's finally came to get me out, I pulled the same routine about being scared and whatnot, but I also added that I didn't want to be separated from my sister who was still in the car. Then I kept rambling on asking where I was, asking what happened, and going on and on about where they were taking me. All the while I was twitching and going into shock. And then I'd add nonsensical things like, "Ohhh I see birds in the sky!"  They did really good at talking to me while getting me out and to safety. Almost. The one they all failed at was responding to was, "Am I going to die?"  There were four guys carrying me on a stretcher when I asked that, and one of them said, "We don't know yet, ma'am," and the other three groaned, and then one of them chimed in and put a hand on my shoulder and told me that they were getting me to a safe place and that I was going to be okay.

And that is exactly why I volunteered to do this drill. If they are gonna be EMT's they are going to hear all sorts of nonsense, so they'd better get grounded now.

So the EMT's delivered me next to a military staging area. One EMT stayed with me while waiting for a medic to come over so he could relay my vitals, and this guy was awesome. He held me hand, got me a blanket, talked calmly to me.

But it's when the military folks came through that things really shifted. I was brought to a staging area for helicopter transport.  Me, and about 30 other people. And I was left there.

That's me on the right. Dying.  I was left there for almost an hour with just a piece of gauze wrapped around my leg as a tourniquet. After some discussion with nearby victim/nursing students, it would appear that I was deemed too far gone to try to save in this particular scenario.

I was finally brought to the helicopter which is where my role playing ended (no helicopter ride, drats), but it was clear to all that even though I wasn't "tagged dead", if this was real, I would have been. I was left too long without sufficient treatment.

Well, there must have been some discussion amongst all teams after scenario number one before they set up for the second run. What this exercise was all about was not just training the students, but also having all entities there, military, civilian, professional, they could learn what it's like to work together. Some of these agencies have a real different way of handling emergencies, it would seem.  I was told that medical teams operate more on a triage system. Most life threatening injuries are the first to be dealt with. The military is different. They treat the walking wounded as quickly as possible so they can send them back out to help with the rescue. Interesting! Makes total sense to me for a real disaster. Except people like us in the helicopter line were goners.

Anyhow, scenario number two was much different.

I was pinned underneath the car this time instead of inside of it. The EMT's got to me right away and a real tourniquet was applied, and I was rushed out of there STAT.  The EMT's walked me right past the military staging area and got me into the military hospital, where it was quite intense.

(that's me on the cot there)

The military was running the show in this area, but they had civilian nurses helping them.  Some military guy took off the tourniquet and put some crazy cap like thing on my short leg, right over the fake ham bone. Yikes. I was trying to tell if it was freaking him out, but they guys in this room were all business, let me tell you, and it was ridiculously reassuring.  From there I was brought to an ambulance where I was driven around a bit to simulate a trip to an ICU. It was there they stabilized me and prepped me for surgery.

See?  I'm happy about that!! LOLOL

One of the funniest moments for me was when the nursing instructor was walking through my stabilization and prep for surgery.  They checked my vitals, gave me a (fake) IV, pain meds, etc...and then they guy says "And now that she's stable, you need to think about making a phone call. Who do you call."

The students came back with, "Family!"  and a few other incorrect responses. After every single one of them got it wrong, I broke out of my role and said, "the orthopedic surgeon."  The instructor laughed and wanted to know how I knew that, but didn't wait for me to answer, and told the students, can't send her off to surgery unless you know the right surgeon has been called to be ready for her.   I'm full of useless information (well, useless because it's information I will never actually use, right? LOL)

So this is where I left my post last night.
But there is more to be said. 

I am the AmpuTeeHee.  I do find laughter to be the best medicine,  and that's why I can LOL my way through this post.  The truth is, there is a spot deep inside of me that knows this is no laughing matter.

I have now been "rescued" three times from a car accident resulting in amputation.  One time for real, two times in a staged drill. I have only survived twice.

I have really been struck by the realization that I didn't survive this one time, and I've been avoiding looking at my feelings about that all week.  I still haven't processed my feelings completely, but at least I have realized that I am avoiding them, so that's where I start.  What I do know for sure, is that the not processing of feelings has had me spiraling down a path of not caring for myself this week.  I have not been following my diet as I had been prior to this, and I feel icky.  I have been uppity and a bit of a pest.  I've been easily upset and have had several feelings of being let down. I haven't rested enough, and I haven't taken care of everything on my to-do list because I've opted to sit like a deer in the headlights a few too many times.

What I also know for sure is that I am super lucky to be alive, and even though I have always known that, this really brought it home for me on a whole deeper level.  When people tell me I'm lucky to be alive, I agree.  But when I was in the real car accident, I really felt that there was no way that dying at that moment was meant to be my fate. It just felt...not possible. On some level, I've never seen any other possible outcome, because surviving was my outcome.  But in reality that is not true. There was indeed another possible outcome, and even the paramedics that rescued me couldn't believe I survived...they told me so when they came to visit me at the hospital because they just couldn't believe it.

This drill made me realize I really truly am lucky. That my being here may truly be just luck.
That freaks me out a little bit. But mostly I just feel more motivated than ever to not take my time on this planet for granted and use it to motivate me, every. single. day.


painting with fire said...

Powerful post! I think you were brave to participate in the drill since it clearly brought back all kinds of stuff. It was a good deed to have done in terms of training others. Hopefully the opportunity to confront lingering stuff from your accident is ultimately helpful - it sure sounds stressful to me!

Jen Anderson said...

I used to be a volunteer EMT and although I never got to participate in such a large drill, I did have classroom training in scenarios like that. If it's any comfort, the scenario where 30 critical patients were left waiting for transport was one of those extremely rare events - an earthquake, explosion, natural disaster, etc. That would only happen when there are more patients than the system can handle, which is rare.

So although your accident could've had a different outcome for you, the training exercise gave you an insight in what it's like to be a statistic. Does that make sense?

Lorena said...

Powerful, indeed. I have a lot to say about this but want to gather my thoughts first. I will probably just message you later, privately, so I can have time to construct what I want to say in a way that doesn't sound a;dlfja;dslkjfa;dsfkjl.

Also; I have a lot of friends and family who are EMTs, volunteer firepeople, former firepeople, and nurses. Would you mind if I linked to this post?

Lastly, XOXO.

Linda said...

Awesome. Thank you for conveying the ups and the downs of such volunteering.

Anonymous said...

Very, very powerful. I'd like to share with a couple of friends in the field. May I link to your post?

--Lynda in Oregon