From above us a crane’s jib swings into view and a large metal box is lowered down, the worker by my side guiding the cage down by radio. It’s then that I realise the crane operator can’t see where he’s lowering this thing.
It’s about the size of a Mini Cooper and probably weighs the same but between
the two of them they touch it down delicately next to us, resting two corners on the terrace while the other two hang in the air.
“Hold tension…” says the guy on the radio.
It reminds me of the pictures online of Chinook helicopters landing with their tail lifts on mountainsides while the front two thirds are suspended in nothing by the rotors.
The cage is slightly too small to lie down in, and access is gained by crawling in a hatch through the side wall. There’s no way we’re getting Mark on a spinal board and into that thing. We’d have to lie him across the top of the guard rails.
My colleagues and I have a quiet chat, dropping weights onto each side of the clinical balance.
Thereâ€™s no argument, just a frank guarantee that weâ€™re all aware of the risks weâ€™re taking against the potential benefits.
â€œWe need to get him out of here.â€
â€œATLS protocol states he should be collared and boarded.â€
“Denies neck pain.”
“Distracted by his chest injuries.”
“Major head injury.”
“Neurologically intact. Fully oriented.”
“Massive risk of exacerbating a hidden spinal injury, we could paralyse him.”
“Already been moved, dragged by the collar of his boiler suit.”
“Mechanism gives extremely high risk of spinal trauma.”
“Yes, but he has life threatening chest trauma. I’m afraid he’ll die down here if we fuck around worrying about his spine and lose sight of his lungs.”
And thats pretty much where we land. His breathing problems WILL kill him without surgery.
Not immobilising him for extrication MIGHT injure or kill him.