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LSU Health Med Student Jumps in to Help Critically Injured Deputy

med student rendering aid to injured deputy

It started out as an ordinary Saturday. After going duck hunting, Michael McMahon was heading home from his parents’ house in River Ridge. Little did he know that he would become a medical first responder within blocks. His brother was ahead of him, and when he saw damaged vehicles and someone on the ground, he called McMahon and told him to hurry. McMahon, a third-year medical student at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, parked a block away and ran. What he saw when he got there would have chilled a seasoned medical professional. A Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy had been escorting a funeral procession when a collision with a car ejected him about 30 feet.

“He was lying in the middle of the street unconscious,” McMahon recalls. “There were several bystanders who had called an ambulance. Another person had begun to assess the officer’s condition and told me that he was breathing. The first steps that came to mind were the “ABC’s” (airway, breathing, and circulation) that were taught to our class in skills labs.”

Although the deputy was breathing, he began to choke, so they placed him in a head-tilt, chin-lift position to clear his tongue from his airway and maintain C-spine precautions in case of a spinal injury.

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“I was able to palpate a carotid pulse and felt that his hands were warm, so I knew that he had good circulation,” relates McMahon. “He had a bleeding wound on his nose that we covered with gauze and held pressure. Once I knew that he was breathing and had circulation, I yelled his name, forcefully pinched his fingernail, and performed a sternal rub which eventually brought him into consciousness. We removed his jacket and used a knife to cut off his t-shirt and full facemask, which were somewhat restricting his breathing.”

McMahon continued assessing his patient. “I noted that his right lower extremity was very swollen and had significant trauma. We loosened his pants and boots to allow the extremity to get as much blood flow as possible.”

Michael McMahon
Meanwhile, the crowd kept growing. By the time the ambulance arrived, it had swelled to about 20 law enforcement officers, two fire trucks and many bystanders.

When University Medical Center was chosen for emergency treatment, McMahon pulled out his own phone.

“I reached out to Dr. Stuart Schexnaydre, a fourth-year Orthopaedic Surgery resident with whom I had been communicating about my upcoming rotation and let him know that there was a patient with severe Orthopedic trauma who would be arriving to his team in the next 20-30 minutes,” explains McMahon. “I was later notified that the officer was in stable condition and had undergone surgery to repair a high-impact femoral fracture.”

In choosing a medical school, McMahon says the hands-on experience that LSU Health New Orleans medical students experience during their training that so many people told him about was a deciding factor.

“That proved to be true in this situation, as I felt confident enough to help out with a patient in critical condition,” he says. “The lessons I have learned since starting medical school gave me the confidence to know that I could make a positive contribution in the situation. Since the first week of medical school when we were exposed to basic life support training, I have played through in my mind what I would do if I was put in a situation where I needed to help take care of someone in a critical situation. The skills labs that we had during first and second year, my preceptorship in emergency medicine, as well as my general surgery trauma rotation in my third year all contributed to my ability to act in the situation. I knew that I must assess the airway, breathing, and circulation first, and quickly perform a physical examination to look for emergent injuries that could be treated in the field.”

McMahon downplays his role. “There were a lot of people around helping a lot. I just so happened to be one of them.”

deputy accident
His faculty and medical school administration don’t see it that way.

“Michael saw the accident and was a first responder,” says Dr. Robert Zura, Professor and Chair of Orthopaedics. “He stabilized and comforted the officer. He maintained his C-spine until Emergency Services arrived. He astutely diagnosed a very high-energy femur fracture that can be fatal. He notified our team - on which he was a rotating student - to make us aware of this critically injured public servant heading our way. We are very proud of this young man.”

McMahon has come away from this experience with some thoughts to share.

“I think it is important to note that anyone can help in an emergency, even with little medical training. Contacting EMS immediately and being available to perform tasks assigned by medical professionals on the scene can be instrumental in helping a patient in critical condition. Even with little medical knowledge, remaining calm and thinking clearly can allow you to assess the patient for life-threatening injuries and stabilize the patient until further help arrives.

“Additionally, I think all medical professionals should think about how they would act in a variety of critical situations if encountered. Running through steps in your mind allows you to be prepared to act automatically, without having to think through the situation in the heat of the moment. Finally, consider having a collection of medical supplies readily available that may allow you to provide treatment in an emergency.”

“Michael McMahon represents the best of us and the high quality of our medical school,” says Dr. Steve Nelson, LSU Health New Orleans Interim Chancellor. “We’re already seeing what an outstanding physician he will be!”