Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Lifting, Handling, and Road ID

October. Autumn is finally here. Colorful leaves and cooler temperatures have arrived. Friday night high school football and Saturday college games define the season.

If you follow my blog, you know it is also National Ergonomics Month. Ergonomists look at how people interface with their work environment. They look for ways to improve work places so that people can perform their work safely and efficiently. 

For me it’s personal. “Tom Waters” and “Ergonomist” are virtually synonyms. My late husband, Tom, was passionate about his work. He made it interesting. Good thing. Our three little girls grew up learning a bit about the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation around the dinner table. 

It’s not that he monopolized the conversation. He was equally interested in everything that went on in my day as well as that of the girls. It’s just that ergonomics was his bailiwick. Of particular interest to him was workplace lifting. Moving boxes, handling construction materials, or lifting patients…it didn’t matter, he cared for people in all job situations.

Though Tom had retired, he was often consulted about research issues in his area of expertise. He continued to review papers and offer advice to other researchers. I decided ergonomics was just part of his DNA.

We were nearing our second full year of retirement when on October 29, 2014, Tom left the house for his daily bicycle ride. It was a beautiful, sunny day. He hadn’t been gone long when my phone rang. 

The voice on the other end told me the front tire of Tom’s bicycle had slipped off the pavement and he had been thrown into a tree. The paramedics were on their way. So was I.

The "ID" Bracelet Tom Received as a Graduation Gift Had Long Gone By the Wayside. It was Replaced with A Road IDGo to
The man said he recognized Tom’s Road ID bracelet on his arm. It’s how he found my phone number. The Road ID was a gift from our youngest daughter and her husband. It had emergency contacts and medical info on it. 

I arrived on the scene just as the paramedics were assessing him. Though he was having a hard time breathing, there were few visible physical injuries; a few scratches on his left forearm. He had been wearing a helmet so his head was protected.

I watched helplessly as Tom told the paramedics, “Can’t breathe.” They told him they were going to lift him up and see if that helped. He nodded. Like them, I assumed the wind had been knocked out of him.  As soon as they lifted him, he passed out. I watched as they loaded him onto a gurney. 

He opened his eyes and looked at me. The unspoken message was one I didn’t want to hear. I smiled and assured him he was going to be okay. “They’re going to get you to the hospital,” I told him. “You’ll see. You’re going to be fine.”

What is curious to me, even now, is that as the paramedics were loading the gurney into the back of the life squad, I was watching how they lifted him. I noted the uneven ground and the awkward stance one of them had to use because of the landform, the road, and the tree. 

I watched very carefully because I was sure Tom would ask me about it. “Safe Patient Handling” was one of his areas of interest. I knew that once he was well enough, he would consider how the equipment or task could be modified to protect the paramedics.

I was certain he would ask. But he didn’t.

Two hours after I received the call, my husband of forty-three years was gone… from this world. The internal injuries were extensive and the blood loss was simply too great. He died of cardiac arrest. 

Before he started wearing the Road ID, Tom carried a card in a pouch that hung from his neck, tucked under his shirt. The medical team didn’t find that pouch until they cut his shirt off of him at the hospital.

You see, if it hadn’t been for that Road ID bracelet, I may not have been called in time to see him alive. Someone on the Road ID website wrote of a similar accident. He couldn’t respond, but when he heard someone calling his wife after finding her number on his Road ID, he was able to relax and let the paramedics do what they needed to do. I know I was able to bring comfort to Tom. That brings comfort to me.

I have two calls to action for my readers. You can see I’ve put Road ID in bold print everywhere in this post. Everywhere it is mentioned, I’ve hyperlinked their website to their name. Simply click. Everyone in my family has a Road ID bracelet. Everyone in your family should have one, too. Think Christmas gifts.

One day, a researcher trained under that scholarship will address safe patient handling for paramedics. I’m keeping my notes.

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