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Texas trauma team saves farmer trapped in grain auger

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A quick call by first responders to include a Texas Tech Trauma team in the rescue may have saved a farmer’s life Tuesday. Fifty-nine year-old Leo Martinez was running a 20-foot tall grain auger cart near Plainview, Texas when he was sucked down and wedged in the auger, severely crushing and cutting his legs. First responders were unable to reverse the auger blades or free Martinez, and feared he could bleed to death from his injuries.

Steven Brooks, M.D., a trauma surgeon at Texas Tech Physicians and Trauma Medical Director at University Medical Center, was contacted and organized a team for travel to the accident site for a possible on-site leg amputation.

“Dr. Christopher Piel (UMC Emergency Department Medical Director) called me and described that the patient was wedged in the auger with his left leg crushed, and that saving Mr. Martinez’s life might require an amputation surgery out in the field,” Brooks said in a recent release. “Our O.R. ‘red team’ prepared a surgical kit. The blood bank prepared coolers of blood for transfusion. The E.D. staff prepared a drug box for intubation and pain control. Thanks to these dedicated professionals who are all part of our trauma team, we were ready for anything. We then helicoptered to the site, essentially taking the operating room to the patient.”

When Brooks and Andres Leal, M.D., chief resident, arrived on scene, they were prepared to intubate the patient. Police and sheriffs were present, while first responders from Lockney EMS & Fire Department and Floydada Fire Department, cut the metal housing away from the auger using a torch to peel back layers of steel. Water was sprayed during the use of the torch to immediately cool the metal.

“The AeroCare1 team was fantastic,” Brooks said, “Transporting us rapidly to the scene and returning the patient safely to University Medical Center. The first responders performed brilliantly. They started IV fluids, treated Mr. Martinez with pain medicines, all while helping to free his crushed leg with a blowtorch.”

Once freed, Martinez was lifted out of the 20-foot tall auger cart in a rescue basket with the help of a forklift. Immediately upon his arrival to University Medical Center, Brooks confirmed that the arterial blood supply to the patient’s legs was intact. Texas Tech Physicians orthopaedic surgeon George Brindley, M.D., along with the orthopedic trauma team, operated on Martinez’s numerous wounds and completed a left foot amputation that was largely done by the auger.

Martinez likely will require future surgeries and physical therapy due to soft tissue and muscle damage, but physicians anticipate his continued recovery. Brooks expressed gratitude for the patient’s safety and pride in first responders and hospital professionals whose efforts resulted in that outcome.

“Yesterday, this man was working to make a living, and this happened to him,” Brooks said. “We are extremely happy that Mr. Martinez is stable and safe.”

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