Doctor recalls lifesaving surgery to free trapped construction worker

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An experienced surgeon is recalling the life-saving surgery he performed to free a man trapped in a piece of construction equipment in Frisco.

Doctor Al West from Medical City Plano got the call Thursday morning about a worker's leg being trapped in a piece of machinery called a trencher. The only solution was to amputate his leg at the scene of the accident.

The exact scenario is something firefighters had just planned with Medial City Plano six months ago. Little did Dr. West know that plan would be put into action so quickly to save a man's life.

“In the civilian world, it’s pretty uncommon to have to go out and do anything like this,” West said.

The construction worker got his right leg entangled in the blades of a trencher Thursday morning. Firefighters couldn't get the victim to the hospital, so Dr. West was flown in by air ambulance to perform the surgery.

“The way the trencher pulled him into the machinery, it was almost as if he was straddling the gears, the teeth of the trencher,” West said. “He was partially suspended sort of upside down by his extremity.”

Dr. West says there was no choice but to amputate just above the knee. Everything he needed was in a toolbox he calls the ‘pre-hospital amputation kit.’ He says the actual amputation took about ten minutes. The patient was given a sedative by firefighters ahead of time. A tourniquet was applied by fire responders to minimize blood loss.

“Once we got him untangled, the safe thing is to put a breathing tube in and breathe for him,” the doctor explained.

Once the patient was stabilized, he was flown to Medical city Plano with Dr. West still by his side.

“This was definitely a first for me,” he said.

Dr. West says saving the man's life was truly a team effort. He was assisted by the medical director of the Frisco Fire Department who was also on scene.

The patient remains in critical condition.