It was the house collapse season in Mumbai…….Come rain and old multistory houses would collapse like houses of cards……The Sion Hospital had the first fully equipped trauma ambulance…..It was connected by short band radio to the Mumbai Fire Brigade….Our call sign for the ambulance was SA1…..
We were called out to the site of a house collapse in central Mumbai…..Several persons were feared trapped under the debris…..The team consisted of yours truly the trauma registrar, Anesthesia registrar, Nurse and two attendants…..
We reached the site post haste…..It was a bedlam as usual with a curious crowd of onlookers being pests as usual…..The cops were having a tough time controlling the crowd….
“Hi Doc” called out a dirt grimed fire officer, “over here”……I found out that there was a man trapped under a concrete beam. His leg was trapped under a heavy beam….It was not possible to extricate him…..We decided that he needed a through knee amputation to get him out…..It was pitch darkness…Typical Indian “Jugaad” produced an electric lamp….
The Fire Officer told me to wait….The debris was shifting and unsafe for us to go….But I had recently read Citadel by Cronin where the hero goes down into a collapsed mine and amputates a person’s leg to extricate him….I jumped in, not heeding the warnings..
It was damp, glowering darkness….There was an ominous creaking as the debris tried to settle….I realized that my so called heroism would get me and the team killed…..Suddenly a powerful hand gripped my collar and I was heaved up to the surface….It was the Fire Officer, face dark with rage…..”Do you want to commit suicide?” he hissed at me…”Wait for us to put supporting jacks”…
Suitably chastened I waited… Happily the patient was extricated by using pneumatic jacks and hoists….His leg was completely mangled and needed an amputation….In the safety of the OR in the hospital…..