MakeShift Challenge: Broken Arm in the Wilderness: Most Plausible Entry

James Furmato’s Most Plausible Winning Entry
by Lee D. Zlotoff
June 17, 2008

The plan is to get him to safety quickly. There are several things to take care of:

Splint the fracture
Secure the victim in the wagon
Modify the car to reach cellphone coverage

Empty the wagon and recline the seats so the victim is laying down with his fractured limb toward the middle of the vehicle, so you have access to the fracture. The fracture is closed, so the risk of infection is low, but if the bone segments are allowed to move, further tissue damage (including arteries and nerves) could occur. A bandage is not needed but the fracture must be splinted.

The limb should be packed with something soft and compressive. Items such as food wrappers, chip bags, socks, and cut-off shirt sleeves can be applied to the broken limb. It may be critical to have a supply of duct tape on hand. First, secure the soft material with tubular segments of socks.

Note: The hammer and a long wrench should be sandwiched across the broken segment. They should be placed so the vertex of the fracture is not compressed. Secure the tools with duct tape on ether side of the fracture.

Now that the fracture is splinted, turn the fish cooler on its side, slide the fractured segment into the cooler, and pack it in ice. You want to avoid further swelling; it leads to pain and discomfort. It may also progress to increased pressure in the limb. As long as the victim is still conscious, have him drink something and have him tell stories to you as you work on the tire.

Take the empty food cooler and fill it with sand and gravel from the stream bed. Drag it back to the wagon. Jack up the car to access the damaged tire, securing it from rolling as per the owner’s manual. To save time, do not remove the tire, but rotate it so the tear is upward. Pour the sand and gravel into the empty tire. Get more if necessary.

After the tire is packed as much as practical (about to the level of the tear), dry off the inside of the tire and place a section of duct tape inside to approximately close the opening. This will provide some support for the tire. Then patch the outside with as much duct tape as you want. Criss-cross the tape to help hold the tire closed. Lower the car, leaving the tools if necessary.

Take the ice off the arm and roll the victim onto his side so his back is to the wall and his broken arm is elevated. Place the ice chests against him to prevent him from rolling. It’s going to be bumpy, but the ice treatment, the elevation, compression, and splinting should keep the victim in check. Drive back toward the highway. If the victim remains conscious, he can check the cellphone for signal. As soon as one is found, call for emergency rescue support.

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