I turned at the agonized cry to find my teammate rolling on the ground, grabbing her ankle. Well, if she was going to tear up her ankle, she definitely picked the right company. The nurse’s aid stripped off the victim’s gear while the firefighter grabbed the ace wrap from her first responder kit, the physician’s assistant assembled an ice pack, and I scavenged splinting material.
Moving her even far enough to get her into the car would have been a problem, without so many people on hand trained in emergency carries. As it was, as the car headed off to the emergency room, I found myself wondering how that would play out in a more critical situation — say, if the injury had occurred as we were trying to walk out of a problem area (such as Paranoid Prepper’s walk out of NYC after he escaped one of the Twin Towers on 9/11).
How’s that visualization work for you, your skills, and what’s in your bag? Would you have what you need and know how to use it? I discovered that night I wasn’t as ready as I could be. My first responder teammates filled me in an item that sounded so valuable I got Salty to order me one the same night: the SAM splint.
SAM splint stands for Structural Aluminum Malleable splint. They’re surprisingly cheap, light, versatile, and useful. Ok, they are a little bulky, but one can’t have everything. If my firefighter teammate’s first responder bag had been stocked with one (she’s seeing to that shortcoming), there would have been no need to try and scavenge something makeshift to stabilize the wounded joint.
I’m not a physician, so I’m not going to give you medical advice on exactly how to use these. YouTube has an extensive collection of useful videos to that end. I did want to let you know that they’re available and look like they could be seriously helpful when a joint needs to be immobilized in the field: all kinds of joints from neck to ankle. Our local rescue squad has used them when having to haul injured hunters three miles through the woods to get to the nearest open spot to land a chopper. Some uses of the splint even allow walking on the injured ankle, if the nature of the injury allows.
Most of the uses I saw favored the large (36 x 4 inch) version. The biggest joints (knee for example) needed two of them. One uses a wrap to attach the splint. Ace wraps are well spoken of, but gauze rolls work too. A couple of survivalist videos talked about using tape, but I kind of hated the thought of how one would get that off.
I called this post Part II because Salty and I did a podcast some time ago with some ideas of how to handle soft tissue injuries in the field. I’d have mentioned the SAM splint then if I’d’ve known of it. Live and learn! You can find that other podcast here:
* Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons