A couple of days ago (8 May 2014), Katie had an incident with the basement stairs.  She was going down them, turned, lost her balance, fell, and heard a rather loud POP in her right ankle.  Everybody upstairs thought she was laughing, but she was crying.  Tori saw her at the bottom of the stairs holding her ankle and yelled for me, which drilled through my headphones.  That certain tone of voice that someone has when “Oh, shit, something is definitely wrong” gets me every time.

Anyway, I ran down the stairs and got her in a position where I could at least view and palpate the ankle, which had swollen up about double the normal size in just a couple of minutes.  Kristen met us down the stairs and looked at the ankle and said “Shit.  That needs to go to the emergency room, doesn’t it?”  Of course, I agreed.  Joints are nothing to screw around with.  Kristen asked what she could get me to help package (my wording) Katie for a trip to the ER, and I asked for an ice bag of some sort and my big trauma kit, which is, as it sounds, a large (suitcase-sized) medical kit that has a bunch of goodies for treating trauma of various kinds.  In the kit, there were two things that I wanted: A SAM splint and some medical tape to wrap it with.

I knew that we were going to have to get her up the stairs, through the house, out the door, and into the van, and I needed to immobilize the ankle as much as possible, which is where the SAM splint came into play.  I had gotten to play with one in my EMT class, so I knew that it would be quick to apply and very stable if used appropriately.  So, I got Katie into a relatively comfortable position, straightened out (“Trauma patients always start out in a clump,” my EMT school instructor said, and this was definitely the case here) and laying down so that she could try to relax and breathe.  Out came the splint, out came the tape, and we got a bag of frozen cranberries for cold pack.

Now check this video out, since this is how I splinted her up:

We got Katie up the stairs with only one significant issue (she passed out, due to the pain and shock).  Crutches came into place as we hobbled out to the front door, where she again got faint.  Erik and I basically carried her to the car and I hauled her into the back seat, where Kristen had reclined the seat.  I was told later that Katie was basically unresponsive for a moment as Kristen buckled Katie in.

Once we got to the hospital, it seemed that EVERYONE loved the SAM splint.  The security guard who brought a wheelchair out for us thought it was cool, the triage nurse thought it was cool, and Katie said that the X-ray techs thought it was cool and that I had done a good job splinting the ankle.  As a side note, the SAM splint is radiolucent, meaning that it doesn’t show on X-ray, so they could have theoretically left it on, but they took it off and had Katie hike up her pant leg, too.  The X-ray techs put the splint back on with a couple of strips of medical tape and sent us back out the the waiting room.

When the nurse called us back (we were waiting less than 20 minutes, as I recall) and put Katie in a bed, she commented about how neat the splint was, too!   Amazing what kind of comments that a strip of thin aluminum surrounded by some closed cell foam will garner. I guess the local EMS companies don’t use SAM splints.  They’re not cheap, but they’re not prohibitively expensive, either.  If I ever get on with  one of the local companies, I’ll have to ask about that.

Anyway, the result of the X-ray was no fracture (Thank goodness!) but a lot of swelling and a pretty nasty sprain.  Katie is laid up on the couch for several days, with instructions for RICE treatment, crutches, and ibuprofen for pain.  The air cast is providing some stabilization, but the most important thing is rest and elevation now.


Katie’s ankle the first day after the injury.

Katie's ankle on the afternoon of May 12

Katie’s ankle on the afternoon of May 12