Posts Tagged ‘Vice-Grips’

Vice-Grips as a surgical tool

December 10, 2018

He came in with a tree in his heel

I didn’t ask, How do you feel?

But I got a good grip

At the end of the stick

And yanked.  And I did it with zeal.

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. I followed 3 years Community Health Center work with a return to traveling and adventures in temporary positions in Alaska, rural Iowa, suburban Pennsylvania, western Nebraska and northern British Columbia. I have returned to Canada now for the 4th time.  Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

People sustain damage in such unlikely ways I would be ashamed to write them into a script. The young man involved gave me permission to tell his story.

Working in wilderness areas where bears and wolves constitute more of usual hazard than anything on the ground, he stepped off a log onto another, not realizing that a dead branch projected directly into his landing zone. The sharp piece penetrated the industrial-rated sole of a new boot in good condition, into the foot just in front of the heel bone, and exited right next to the outside ankle bone (lateral malleolus, if you must).  He crawled 300 meters (three football fields with end zones).  His boss drove him 4 ½ hours to our facility.

The thick end, about half an inch around, stuck out half an inch from the skin.

Of course I called for help. The orthopedist in Prince George advised us to remove it, give the patient antibiotics and pain pills, and make sure he arrived ready and in time for surgery the next morning at 8:30AM.

I know a lot about procedural sedation, but I’ve not done one, so I called for more help.

While I waited, I got to thinking about exactly how to grasp the spear at its base. I located the biggest needle driver and the toughest-looking Allis clamp, but neither appeared up for the task and I wished out loud for a pair of Vice-Grips.

Check Maintenance, the nurses said.

Finding the Maintenance door locked, I discovered to my amazement that my key for the Doctors’ Lounge opened it. From the drawer marked PLIERS I extract a Vice-Grips, a Channellocks, and a pair of industrial-grade Stanley pliers, thinking that all those years as a bicycle mechanic finally paid off.

My colleague graciously came in, talked me through the anesthesia set-up, and watched as I administered fentanyl (a powerful, short-acting narcotic), and propofol (a general anesthetic). When the patient quit answering questions, using my experience with Vice-Grips and metal, I got a loose fit, tightened the locking pliers half a turn, grasped the projecting end of the stick and yanked.  The stick exited cleanly though blood-covered, just a bit longer than my palm’s-width.

Despite heavy anesthesia, the patient sat up and talked without making sense, then after 15 seconds lay back down. When the general anesthetic wore off, he did not remember.

I brought the tools back to Maintenance, and took a good look at their tool drawer.

tool drawer december 2018

Note the needle driver, hemostat, and surgical scissors juxtaposed with Vice-Grips, Channellocks, wire strippers, and tin snips.

Contrast is the essence of meaning, especially in a hospital maintenance department.

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