Dr. Andy Parker, vice president of U.S. HealthWorks, was going home to Seattle after a relaxing long weekend at his cabin in British Columbia. Heading south on Highway 1, Dr. Parker and his wife, Dawn, were making good time through the canyon highway as the midday sun was beating down on their pickup truck. As they drove through the mountainous terrain in BC, they admired the gorgeous scenery and could easily see why this highway is a favorite for motorcyclists, especially on warm summer days.
A short time after they passed through Lytton, they noticed a person sitting by the side of the highway. Andy kept driving, thinking nothing of it, but Dawn caught a glimpse of something that wasn’t right – a person in a muddy ditch off the shoulder of the road. She told Andy and he pulled over and made a U-turn when the road was clear.
Andy parked the truck and went into the ditch to find a motorcyclist who had missed a turn, dropped off an abrupt shoulder and crashed his bike in the mud. The biker, Tom Aitken, was conscious, but in a lot of pain. Dr. Parker had prior experience as an emergency room doctor, and was trained in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS), which is recognized as the standard of care for initial assessment in trauma cases. He rapidly did a clinical survey on the injured biker. Dr. Parker determined there were no life-threatening injuries; however, Tom’s right leg was fractured with his right foot rotated 180 degrees, completely backwards.
With no cell reception in this remote area, Tom’s motorcycling companion rode off to find a place to call 911 for an ambulance. Meanwhile, Dr. Parker started work on stabilizing the patient. As he did so, he heard a familiar voice above him say “Hey Andy, what are you doing down in a ditch?” It was Dr. Steve Sorsby, regional medical director and president of U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group of Washington – another physician. Tom’s unlucky day had taken a turn for the better – he had not one, but two, physicians to help him.
By coincidence, Dr. Sorsby, an avid motorcyclist, was on vacation and happened to be riding north on Highway 1 with his son, Jason. They were making a much-anticipated ride to see the remote coastal town of Hyder, Alaska. Both were very excited as it was their first time to this popular stretch of road for motorcyclists.
Seeing the accident scene, Dr. Sorsby stopped to see if his help was needed. “I couldn’t believe when I looked down into the ditch and saw Dr. Parker in the mud, performing a trauma assessment!” he said afterwards. “What were the chances?”
“Get down here and help me with Tom,” Dr. Parker called, and Dr. Sorsby willingly climbed down into the muddy ditch to render assistance. The two U.S. HealthWorks doctors proceeded to stabilize the injured Tom and were soon joined by an off-duty EMT from the Vancouver area. The RCMP (Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police) arrived, closed the highway, and, together, all waited for the ambulance.
But time was critical for Tom. The physicians were unable to assess if there was any blood supply to the lower leg as his heavy riding boot was still on and they had no way of cutting it off without causing Tom further excruciating pain. The doctors needed to put the bones back in place and rotate the foot back into its normal position. With each passing moment, Tom’s leg was in greater danger of sustaining permanent damage.
The ambulance finally arrived, but they didn’t have any IV morphine. They did, however, have nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”). Lacking any other analgesic options to help reduce the fracture pain, the physicians determined they would use the nitrous oxide while they rotated Tom’s foot back into a normal position.
Tom was instructed to deeply breathe in the gas through a face mask, and his leg was successfully rotated into a normal position. As his pain eased, his riding boot, pant leg, and sock were cut off to evaluate the injured area. It was an open fracture, and part of one lower leg bone had been protruding through the skin just above the boot until the fracture was reduced and the leg was rotated back to its normal alignment. The doctors proceeded to dress the wound and get the leg splinted. Tom was placed on a backboard with a cervical collar in place and loaded onto the waiting ambulance, which transported him to Lytton, where he was airlifted to a hospital.
The RCMP re-opened the highway and Drs. Sorsby and Parker went their respective ways, delayed a bit, but certainly for a good cause.
Tom required two operations to pin the leg, but his leg was saved. Both Tom and his wife expressed many thanks to all the Good Samaritans who helped him in his time of need.
P.S. If there are any math wizards out there, we would really like to know the odds of a motorcyclist getting help after a crash by not one, but two, physicians who were first and second on the scene of a remote crash site; and who, coincidentally, are colleagues in the same medical group and have known one another for years! The odds must be astronomical….. Maybe Tom should buy a lottery ticket!