Bottom Line
Your Health
Save yourself
You are your own first line of defense on the road when it comes to health emergencies

By Cara Reed
Special to Land Line


Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of features that will include tips on how to save yourself from various injuries and accidents. The series will cover a spectrum of situations, ranging from what to do if you are alone and choking, to the quickest road to recovery following a close encounter with a bad buffet.

While tightening straps on your flatbed, you slip and cut your leg, and you’re bleeding – a lot.

Or, you lose a finger when something goes horribly wrong when hooking up your trailer.

In either case, you are by yourself, and miles away from any help.

Do you know how to stop the bleeding? Do you know what to do in order to save the finger for reattachment?

Your duties as a truck driver put you at risk for these types of injuries every day. Knowing exactly what to do can mean the difference between recovery or permanent injury, and even between life or death.

Stop the bleeding

Bleeding can be life threatening. The sooner you control it, the better your chances for healing – and survival. For any bleeding, apply direct pressure to the site.

Pressure can be applied with a makeshift “dressing” such as a clean rag, napkin or any material you can find. Traditional “Ace” or elastic bandages can be used to hold the dressing in place and help with pressure. Continue the pressure until the bleeding stops, usually about five to 10 minutes for small cuts, and at least 20 minutes for large cuts, amputations and cut arteries. A cut artery squirts blood with each heartbeat; a cut vein oozes blood at a relatively consistent rate.

If an object such as a piece of glass or metal is impaled in your body, do not remove it. Secure it with additional bandaging. Elevating the injury above heart level may help control the bleeding. If blood soaks through the dressing, do not remove the dressing; the less a bleeding wound is disturbed, the easier it will be to stop the bleeding. Instead, add more material over the dressing. Continue pressure and seek medical attention.

If bleeding persists before help is available, add additional compression or constriction at the pulse point just above the bleeding. Pulse points in your arms are at your wrists, just above your elbows, and your armpits; in your legs, they’re located in the ankles, just above the knees, and inside the groin.

If you need to free up your hands, make a pressure bandage by rolling material into a ball or finding an appropriate-size heavy object, such as a can of soda or an ice pack from your cooler, and place it on top of the dressing. Secure it by wrapping it tightly (but not constricting) with a shirt sleeve, bandana or even duct tape.

Applying a tourniquet is a last resort, and should be done only in dire emergencies where the choice between life and limb must be made. You can improvise a tourniquet with items immediately available, such as a belt, shoe lace or tube sock.

Do not drive if you have lost a massive amount of blood, are cold and sweaty, feel tired or anxious, or have difficulty breathing. These are all signs of impending shock. Instead, get on that CB or cell phone and call for help.

Preserve severed fingers, etc.

If a finger, toe, limb, or any other body part is accidentally amputated, first follow the above steps to control the bleeding. Then find and recover the body part, even if it is in several pieces. If preserved correctly, an amputated limb can be reattached within six to 12 hours. An unpreserved part may be salvageable for up to six hours.

The severed limb can be preserved by first wrapping it in a clean cloth, putting it in an airtight bag, and placing it on ice. However, these items may not be readily available. You may need to improvise with whatever you can find. For instance, to protect a severed finger, use a coffee cup with lid, empty bottle with cap, or plastic wrap, but whatever you use, keep it cold.

Do not place the limb directly on ice or in water. Wrap or contain it first, or the limb will shrivel, and reattachment will not be possible. Once you’ve done this, if you are able to drive, get to the nearest emergency room, or call 9-1-1 for help.

One of the most important things to do is stay calm. Panicking can make your heart beat faster and cause you to lose more blood. Drink lots of fluids to make up for the blood you lost. And, even though you may have seen an emergency physician, be sure to follow up with your doctor when you return home to check for circulation problems, infection, anemia from blood loss, and function of the limb. LL

Editor’s note: Cara Reed, M.S.N., lives in Old Forge, PA, and is a registered nurse and clinical nurse specialist in adult/geriatric health. She currently practices in a skilled-nursing rehab center. Cara is the wife, daughter and sister of truckers and has always been interested in the trucking industry and, in particular, truckers’ health habits.