Surgery on the fly

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Imagine being trapped in a grain bin, your leg gouged in four places by an auger that pulled you in to a life-threatening situation.

Imagine you're a first responder. If you remove the pressure from the entanglement, massive bleeding could start.

That's why Dr. Orlando Morejon, a surgeon at Saint Francis Medical Center, was called to the scene.

Joshua Blankenship, 29, of Zalma, Mo., was in poor shape when first responders arrived to his job site in Advance, Mo., but thanks to a lot of trauma expertise and teamwork, it appears Blankenship will keep his life and his leg.

"As soon as we lifted him out, I was able to quickly clamp everything off and prevent significant blood loss at the scene," Morejon said during a news conference.

Having a trauma surgeon on site helped make the extrication a tactical one, said Dexter, Mo., fire chief Don Seymore in a phone interview.

"Our main concern was if we relieve the pressure from the entanglement, he would start massive bleeding that would not be able to be stopped," Seymore said. The way his leg was caught in the auger blade created a tourniquet, he said.

While he was trapped, Blankenship was placed on oxygen, given IV fluids and blood transfusions in anticipation of blood loss as he was untangled from the auger. Blankenship's leg was saved, but it was still unclear on Friday if there will be any long-term nerve damage as a result of the accident.

This was a perfect example of why communication and relationships are so important. First responders from multiple units responded to this emergency, assessed it appropriately and asked for additional help. More expertise arrived in the form of a surgeon who helped save a life away from an operating room. Everyone involved should be commended.

Ultimately, we all wish the best for Blankenship. Here's to a complete recovery.

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