Third year medical student Liz Groesbeck, like other excited Las Vegas Raiders fans, was on her way to her first full-capacity game at the new Allegiant stadium since the team moved to Sin City last month. She was on a first date on an Uber just blocks away from the game her Raiders would play against the Seattle Seahawks when she saw a man on the floor and people were gathering around him.
Groesbeck left the keys, cell phone, and date in the Uber and came out to see if she could help. The Uber got stuck in a traffic jam, so Groesbeck thought she could still jump in the car when she wasn’t needed.
Then she heard screams. “That didn’t bother me. People scream when the unexpected happens,” said the 28-year-old student at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). But the screams were only a small indication of what she would discover on closer inspection. The middle-aged man, lying on the ground, had his arm severed. An abandoned golden SUV stopped on the curb nearby. It turned out to be a hit and run of pedestrians by a driver who was later charged with DUI by the police.
“I was one of the first people there,” says Groesbeck for Medscape Medical News. “I knew this guy didn’t just fall. I told someone to call EMS and I have someone to take their wife elsewhere [away from the bloody scene]. She was obviously very upset. … In some places she was hysterical. ”
Next, Groesbeck, who ironically had finished her emergency operation in general surgery the day before, focused on the patient. Kneeling next to him, she realized that the immediate priority was to stop the bleeding and clear his airway. “He was hardly breathing,” she said. Another student who Groesbeck believes was pursuing medical school – there was no time for a formal introduction – offered his help, along with spectators who went to the game.
“The audience was very energetic. It was a nice thing.” Groesbeck cited the spirit of saving lives that developed from filming the Las Vegas Country Music Festival on October 1, 2017. “People are very willing to help others where they can.”
Groesbeck, who led the effort, asked for harnesses, “and bystanders made sure to do so immediately,” and the other student followed Groesbeck’s instructions to put on tourniquets with the help of her surroundings. After the blood loss was curbed, the next priority for Groesbeck was making sure the patient could breathe.
With the request for clothes to clear the man’s airway, “I was given five shirts in a circle.” All she needed was a jersey to manually draw the blood from his mouth to clear his airway.
She overruled well-intentioned suggestions to put the man on his side – which she feared he might paralyze – or use a straw to help him breathe. “I didn’t mean to put anything down his throat.” Meanwhile, there was so much traffic around the Allegiant Stadium that night that firefighters and paramedics left the vehicle when the ambulance couldn’t get any closer and ran to the crime scene.
From training to practice
The decisions that Groesbeck had made prior to her arrival required her years of training as a doctor and, in particular, an EMT certification course, which she had to take before starting medical school, she said.
She credits Douglas Fraser, MD, FACS, Associate Professor of Surgery at UNLV and the Accident Medicine Director of the University Medical Center (UMC) for the life-saving methods she learned in this course. He happened to be the attending physician when the victim was hospitalized that night in critical condition. The husband’s wife was also injured, but not to the extent of her husband’s.
Fraser said he did not know at the time that his student had been involved in saving the man’s life until Groesbeck thanked her for teaching her what to do in an emergency. “I [first] was very impressed that she did that. Students are so busy; they move after they graduate or finish their rotations. You don’t see them again and again; Your short time with them could have a lasting impact and that is my goal, “Fraser told Medscape Medical News.
“They rarely thank you or reflect back. It renewed my feeling that I wanted to teach more to see the positive impact it had on Elizabeth and other students, ”he said.
Regarding the emergency situation she was navigating, Fraser said he was very proud of his student but was also concerned that she might have been injured in the middle of a busy intersection. “She was selfless and put herself in danger to help someone.” He also noted that it was the first time a student had put her skills to the test so soon after studying. “It was a good result and she really saved the life of this victim.”
He attributed her education to the Stop the Bleed program, which began after the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012. UNLV requires new medical students to complete the American College of Surgeons First Aid program to learn how to stop bleeding in a severely injured person by the application of tourniquets and pressure. “You need to stop the bleeding immediately … and see if your airways are open, and if not, open your airways or you won’t have a patient long. I know she did that. These are the two most important “life saving skills” that she has made.
Medical students are often referred to as doctors by their family and friends, Fraser continued. “Everyone looks at you. It can happen on an airplane, you can be anywhere. She heard that a person was in need and took action immediately and was able to use her school’s education and use it well.”
Not her first call to action
Just a week before the incident, Groesbeck was on clinical rotations at UMC, helping in the emergency room and operating rooms. “She has always been very dedicated and mature beyond her years,” said Fraser. “She definitely had that ‘it’ factor. She was sincere with patients and their families, and performed well in the operating room. … She was very comfortable around patients; very comfortable in stressful situations.”
He added, “I look forward to her joining rotations in trauma surgery in the near future.”
Meanwhile, Groesbeck was delighted to learn that the man she had saved survived and was thrilled to be part of that effort. He hadn’t contacted her at the time of going to press. The other student who helped him save his life didn’t either.
“A lot of people got involved and donated their time to help. He was lucky on a very unfortunate day,” said Groesbeck.
She remembered a previous accident victim years ago who was not so lucky. On the way to pick up her white coat for the ceremony before her first medicine year, she came across a car that was turned upside down. “It tore off the roof. I checked on the passenger who was being held back. He was partially scalped. The windows were broken and I got in next to him.” This time she used her own shirt to keep the pressure off the wound. “Unfortunately he didn’t make it.” There was nothing she could do, she was told.
“That got me mentally. Very vivid pictures stuck in my head,” said Groesbeck. With a Masters in Neuroscience, she was used to seeing the brain, “but not like that. I was sad that he died so badly.” So the newer life-saving experience was redeeming, she said. “I’ve been through hell and back.”
And she’s still well on her way to becoming the doctor she imagined as a kid, mummifying her cats with gauze bandages and covering her little sister with plasters. “It felt good to know what I can do,” said Groesbeck. “That makes me happy [man] made it. He was lucky and was able to go home to his family. I wasn’t sure when he left in the ambulance. It was a great relief. ”
Regarding her role in the episode and her future career ambitions, Groesbeck said: “We study all the time. It’s not very family rewarding a week later. It’s things like this that make endless hours of study worthwhile. I feel like I’ve achieved something.
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