Thursday, December 12, 2013

Trapped by a Snow Blower--Injuries and Setting the Scene

I have a character who is using his snow blower on a slope, and it tips over on him and traps his arm in the blades. He needs to be stuck for at least a couple of hours in the ice and snow. Will this work?

About 6000 people are injured annually (in the USA) by snow blowers. These machines can “clog” with wet snow, and there is the temptation to clear the blockage manually. (NEVER do this. Always use the tool that comes with the snow blower). The most common injuries are to fingers. Because of multiple sharp motor-driven blades, these machines are capable of cutting skin, muscle, tendon, and bone. Amputation of the affected digits is often necessary.
Hand surgeons hate it when people use hands to clear the blades of a snow blower!

Okay. That out of the way, let’s move on to the considerations for your scenario.
It sounds like the machine in your manuscript isn’t jammed. When the operator lets go of the handles, the blades will quit turning. The damage will have to be inflicted by stationary blades.

--The size of the snow blower. The average home use snow blower could cause damage to the arm—not to the extent of a hand, though. The blower might become jammed by clothing.

--The weight of the snow blower. This can range from 25 lb. to upwards of 150 lb. depending on the type. The average man weighs ~155 lb. Unless the victim is elderly, sick, or debilitated, he could probably shove the snow blower off.

--The operator’s clothing. If it’s very cold, he may have on several layers. The blades would have to cut through the clothing to injure him.

--Whether you want blood loss. If you want your victim to bleed, he’ll need to get a lot of muscle damage or cut a blood vessel.

Consider the possibility he’s clearing snow with a bobcat skid loader—a small tractor for home/ranch use. They are prone to tipping over if used on a slope, and can weigh over a thousand pounds—hard to get out from under.

You can write the trauma to the victim any way you like as far as injuries and bleeding. A crush injury to the arm can be severe enough to require amputation or just cause a lot of bruising—depends on how the extremity is trapped.
Bleeding would be believable and easy to add.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have further questions!
elly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it.
Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous.
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