'Who wants to lose a leg? Kevin M. Sweeney asked matter of factly. Second year medical student Gordon Anderson stepped forward.
'Which leg do you want to lose?' Sweeney asked the volunteer.
'My left leg. I pedal my bike with my right,' replied Anderson. Then Anderson discovered that sporting an amputated leg, complete with spurting 'blood' and exposed bone, meant having his pants cut. 'You be the amputee, Charlie,' he called a friend, 'I don't want my pants cut.'
It was that kind of a morning in Hangar Six at National Airport yesterday, as 150 of us prepared for our roles as 'victims' of an aviation disaster there.
I was a sucking chest wound and lacerated hand. The chest wound consisted of a flesh tone rubber vest and squeeze bulb arrangement worn under my shirt. A pencil was jammed into a small hole in the vest, and everytime I sqeezed the bulb a frothy, blood-like, fluid oozed out. Just like the real thing.
We all milled about the hangar for more than two hours comparing and improving upon each other's wounds and demonstrating the range of our spurts. The best were the amputees, who could shoot 'blood' about three feet.
Derek Duval of Takoma Park was a 9-years-old victim attending his second disaster with his nurse mother and medical school father.
"I had a broken arm and concussion of my head in a (simulated) Metro-liner crash (last year)," he said. This year he had bad cuts on his leg, head and arm.
We were taken to the "crash" scene in two Army buses. I don't know what went on in the other bus, but we went to meet our fate singing "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." A half-hearted effort was made by some medical students to pay a "victim" to squirt an unpopular television reporter with "blood," but the plot was forgotten as we left the bus and took our places in the grass and on the runway.
"This is a blast," said Georgetown University nursing student Barbara Barnes. "I'm getting out of studying." she said as the smoke bomb was set off signaling the beginning of the drill.
When the "crash" occurred we began to yell and moan. Cries of "doctor!" "nurse!" and "medic" rose from the field. They were a long time in being answered.
One Georgetown student - I'm a disoriented concussion" - staggered about crying, "My luggage! My luggage! My 30-page term is in my luggage and I don't have a carbon!"
We all tried to take the game - not unlike "army" or cowboys and Indians" - seriously, but after 15 minutes of screaming and feigning death throes we realized nobody was bothering with us and we stopped to watch the fire engines.
At that point Sweeney, who takes such nonsense very seriously - he is the developer and manufacturer of the sucking chest wound, abdominal wound with protruding intestines and open compound fracture - began running amont us yelling, "This isn't a picnic! You're supposed to be hurt!Start screaming!" We tried again.
Thirty-one minutes after the crash I got bored, crawled to the edge of the runway and was finally picked up. But when the firemen picking me up realized I wasn't a military employee, they put me back down with a "sorry buddy." A doctor watching the proceedings looked at my sucking chest wound and said, "you'd be dead."
My triage tag read "Immediate. First Priority." But I wasn't in the Fairfax County ambulance until 36 minutes after the crash. And it was another eight minutes before I was given oxygen.
Fifty-five minutes after we crashed I was wheeled into National Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Hospital, about a 12-minute drive from the crash scene.
By that time I was experiencing chills, from having cold packs applied to my chest and going through various changes in temperature - to say nothing of being covered with blankets. I was feeling faint and light-headed from yelling and gasping so much that I had not breathed in enough oxygen.
They were quick at the hospital. Within five minutes of my being wheeled in I had been through X-ray and was awaiting surgery. Of course during whose five minutes someone knocked the oxygen tube out of my nose and didn't notice its being out for four minutes.
But that's being picky. After all, given the speed with which I had been evacuated,I probably would have been dead long before then.