Dr Ed Walker: 'Her foot was trapped under the engine. They wanted me to do a quick amputation'

My Toughest Case

About 15 years ago I was quite junior in the accident and emergency department. Pre-hospital care is much better organised these days but back then fire brigades would often just shout for the nearest A&E department if they got into trouble.

I was called to a car crash on the M62. There was a 16-year-old girl who had been trapped in a car for over an hour. She wasn't actually unwell, she had no other major injuries, but her foot was jammed underneath the engine block, which had been driven back into the passenger compartment. Her foot was trapped between the engine and the car floor and they'd failed to get it out.

They asked for someone to send a doctor or nurse to quickly do a leg amputation. I'd never done anything like that before. It's difficult to make it a nice job but it's quite easy to do – so I kind of knew what was involved. When I got there I was faced with this young girl who was perfectly well but they wanted to chop her leg off. We would have had to amputate her leg between below the knee and the mid-shin bone with a saw. She was totally conscious and talking but she was scared, cold and tired.

I didn't have much of a conversation with her; I just spoke to the firemen about what they had done so far and what they were trying to do to get her out. All I could think about was what they were asking me to do: what if we waited and her foot just slipped out? I delayed everything as much as I could because she wasn't getting any worse. It was truly and simply that they couldn't free her and that they had been trying for ages. It was a difficult situation. It wasn't like she was trapped in a drain with water rising.

The other people in the car weren't seriously injured: the driver, her father, had got out, it was just a freak thing. She was the only one still left in the smashed-up car. So we got all the kit ready; there is a kind of amputation pack. In those cases you would inject the patient with ketamine as it's a very powerful anaesthetic but doesn't stop you breathing. So we were all set to go, but I still continued to delay it and eventually, the fire crew got her out. I was as relieved as she was.

She had a few broken bones in her foot where it had been trapped but other than that she was fine. In emergency medicine you're expected to dive in, but sometimes it's alright to sit back and wait a bit. In this case, I'm so glad I did.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

    £22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

    Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

    Day In a Page

    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
    Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

    Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
    The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

    The US is getting frayed at the edges

    Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
    Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

    New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

    A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
    Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
    Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

    Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

    Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
    Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

    Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

    He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
    How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

    Celebrating 100 years of Leica

    A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world