FORT WAYNE – It almost never happens, but Tuesday it did.
A paramedic performed an emergency field amputation on a truckers leg to free him from an early-morning wreck on Interstate 69 after he had been pinned in his cab for about 2 1/2 hours.
The patients condition was deteriorating rapidly. The decision had to be made to get him out as soon as possible, said Mike Gillespie, a spokesman for Three Rivers Ambulance Authority. It was truly a matter of life over limb.
Gillespie said the field amputation was the first one done by Fort Wayne paramedics since at least the early 70s.
After the procedure, the trucker was taken to Lutheran Hospital in critical condition, according to the Fort Wayne Fire Department. His name was not released.
About 12:20 a.m., he was driving a semi south on I-69, near the 309 mile marker, when the semi went off the west side of the highway, broke through a concrete sound barrier and buried its nose in a hillside, authorities said.
Crash investigators do not know why the semi left the road. City police said it appears the semi rubbed along a guardrail for several feet before breaking through and leaving the interstate.
The semis load of cabbage in crates spilled on top of the driver, who became pinned in the cab from his waist down, Fire Chief Amy Biggs said. Firefighters, with the help of a tow-truck service, stabilized the semi and dismantled parts of the cab to reach the driver, she said.
When the drivers condition began to worsen and he was still pinned, fire officials and paramedics at the scene, along with a trauma doctor at Lutheran Hospital, decided amputation was the best course. It was very much a group effort, Gillespie said.
With over-the-radio guidance from the trauma doctor, a paramedic amputated part of the drivers leg so he could be removed from the cab. It was shortly before 3 a.m. when he was freed, Biggs said.
She said the driver was conscious and alert during the entire process. Every possible measure was taken to ensure that the patient was as comfortable as could be, Gillespie said.
Gillespie said its customary for paramedics to seek advice from doctors at Fort Wayne hospitals on complex medical matters, but Tuesdays circumstances were exceptional.
Its obviously something that does not happen every day, he said.