Monday, May 27, 2013

Officer Tuthill-Incomming

One of the most dramatic laboratory stories I can ever tell occurred on May 27, 1986.   Officer Tuthill was a police officer for the Suffolk County Police Department; Long Island New York.  This brave officer was shot point blank by an angry motorist who he gave a summons to that evening.  The man shot officer Tuthill in the face with a 12-ga. shotgun.  Officer Tuthill survived his injuries but was permanently disfigured and blinded in one eye.

May 27, 1986, I was scheduled for evening shift at SUNY Stonybrook, University Hospital.  While driving to work in my 1982 Toyota Celica GT, I heard on a news radio station that a police officer was shot on eastern Long Island.  The officer was gravely injured and was en-route to University Hospital.   I new then that my shift was going to be busy in the lab.  I continued on my usual commute from Copiague, NY to Stonybrook.  Arriving at the hospital employee parking lot the atmosphere seemed quiet, normal, and like no action was going on.  I parked in a space on the lower level of this three tiered open lot and started up the stairs toward main level where the emergency room was located.  Once at the top of the stairs, I could turn around and look over the North-West horizon and see  a far distance as the hospital was on high elevation.  To the East was a line of tall trees that blocked the horizon. In the Easterly distance I could hear a familiar sound.  The low rumble of a helicopter was close and closing in fast.  As the sound became deafening, a monstrous, green, super sized National Guard helicopter cleared the tree line and made a tight radius turn right over my position.  This flying machine was gigantic.  It was the size of a bus with a massive rotor spinning with ferocious velocity.  In seconds the huge flying machine was on the ground and ER staff were running out to meet the tragic situation.  Officer Tuthill was quickly transferred  to a stretcher from the huge helicopter. I stood and watched the whole process of fly in, landing, transfer, ER entry, and then finally take-off.  The big huge bird with the massive rotor began to increase engine RPM.  The faster the rotor spun, the louder the noise.  I never heard anything so loud.  The smell of Jet-A exhaust was almost chocking.  As the rotor spun into a gray blur, the big bird slowly left the ground.  This great big flying machine turned in a hover about 30-40 ft above the ER parking lot and slowly rotated toward my standing position.  Flying directly overhead, I felt the power the rotor exerted in downward force on the atmosphere around me.  It was a feeling I may never experience again.  That close and underneath a roaring army helicopter was impressive, exhilarating, scary, and exciting.

I briskly entered the emergency room and headed toward the elevator to make my way to the lab.  There were lives to save in this large facility. As a trauma center, there were always lives to save.  I was ready to do my small part to help this medical team save officer Tuthill.  Arriving at the Hematology lab, all the staff were buzzing about the newest patient to arrive by helicopter.  Even though the lab did not have windows we could always tell there was a helicopter on the pad.  The ventilation system air intake was in close proximity to the helipad, so we always knew when a helicopter was present on the pad.  In short order,  first blood specimens arrived from  Officer Tuthill.  The lab was a torrent of activity to receive, process, analyze, and result the testing for this brave Officer.  Several more blood specimens would arrive in the lab that evening from Officer Tuthill.  His injuries described amongst the staff were grave and horrific, he was critical.  The next evening at University Hospital there were more specimens to analyze for the officer.  Little did I know then that the patient was on his way to not only making a recovery, he would also testify in court to tell the story of how the "perp" shot him in a supermarket parking lot.  Officer, Tuthill would move on through the years, returning to the police force as a Detective.  After 25 years, Officer Tuthill retired from Police Duty.

Although, very insignificant was my part in the saving of Officer Tuthill that evening, it was the collective efforts of the whole medical team that ultimately saved the patient.  The quick transport from the supermarket parking lot crime scene to the helipad at University Hospital was instrumental in getting Officer Tuthill much needed medical care ASAP.  A dedicated team of Doctors, nurses, and professional staff worked expediently that evening and fervently for the rest of Officer Tuthill's hospital stay to bring the best possible outcome for this brave man - returning home to his wife and children, then back to servicing the community on the police force.
God bless you Mr. Tuthill and your family.

Lab work is not always glamorous or exciting as this story contends.  The laborious efforts of Clinical Laboratory Scientists often go un-noticed, working in background to provide much needed analytical definitive data to help the physician diagnose and assess the medical condition of the patient.   Med Techs keep the laboratory system in good order, instruments running at their best to provide accurate reliable lab data.  Not all medical tragedies have a positive outcome such as this story but when they happen all involved feel that their small part in the success is not that small after all.

Hospital facilities in cities big and small all have various plans and procedures to handle different medical tragedy scenarios.  The hospital I work in now [Gwinnett Medical Center- Lawrenceville] was recently  recognized as providing expert care for stroke victims.  Many facilities are recognized for expert care and for great results in treating specialized medical needs.  Get to know your local hospital facility...find out what their specialties are.  Look them up on Health grades.You never know when you will need their services.

Good day my friends - take care of yourselves.

No comments:

ShareThis Post!