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Team of Kootenai Health doctors amputate man’s leg at crash scene to save his life

Jan. 20, 2017 Updated Fri., Jan. 20, 2017 at 10:37 p.m.

Dr. Marcus Torgenson (left) and anesthesiologist David Wineinger talk about amputating the leg of a man trapped in a semi crash. (Nina Culver)
Dr. Marcus Torgenson (left) and anesthesiologist David Wineinger talk about amputating the leg of a man trapped in a semi crash. (Nina Culver)

A team of doctors and a nurse from Kootenai Health did something they had never done before on Thursday: They crawled into the cab of a wrecked semitruck and amputated the leg of a man pinned in the wreckage.

The crash near Fourth of July Pass on Interstate 90 was reported just before 5:45 a.m. Thursday. Shoshone County emergency crews arrived first and requested a “heavy rescue” response from Kootenai County. A Kootenai County division chief called Kootenai Health for help just after 7 a.m.

“This is an unprecedented event,” said Kootenai County EMS System Chief Christopher Way. “This is not something we do normally, or ever.”

Traffic was slowing on icy roads because of a jackknifed semi at the time of the crash. A logging truck was sideswiped by another semi and both of those trucks were rammed from behind by a semi driven by 54-year-old Aleksey A. Tikhonov, of Soap Lake, Washington.

Tikhonov’s seat was pushed back into the truck’s sleeping compartment. “There were logs pushing over him,” said Dr. Marcus Torgenson, who performed the amputation. “It was very, very cramped. I had to lay down to get at his leg.”

Torgenson was assisted by Dr. Edward DeTor and anesthesiologist David Wineinger. Registered nurse Carmen Sincerbeaux was also on scene. DeTor, Wineinger and Torgenson wedged themselves into the crushed cab of the truck during the surgery. “It was a very remarkable situation to find ourselves in,” he said.

Tikhonov’s right leg was pinned beneath the steering wheel and the dashboard. First responders had put a tourniquet on it to help control the bleeding and stabilized the wreckage.

It was obvious that Tikhonov would not have survived the several hours it would have taken for crews to pry him from the wreckage with his leg intact, DeTor said.

“He did not have a lot of time in that environment,” he said.

Everyone involved in the rescue praised the long-standing collaboration that allowed several agencies to work together smoothly. “There’s a sense of comfort in that,” said Torgenson.

Tikhonov is in fair condition at Kootenai Health. His passenger, 47-year-old Vasily P. Bugaychuk, was airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. He is in serious condition.

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