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Wednesday, September 19
Doctors' quick decisions saved Zanardi
By Robin Miller
CORBY, England -- Dr. Terry Trammell immediately knew two things when he jumped out of the CART safety truck last Saturday afternoon in Germany. Alex Zanardi's legs couldn't be saved and neither could his life without some drastic action.
Zanardi's car, sitting almost stationary in Turn 1, had been cut in half by Alex Tagliani's 190-mph missile, in the closing stages of the American Memorial at EuroSpeedway. Dave Hollander, a veteran of CART's safety team, had seen the accident and prepared Trammell for the worst.
"He said it was horrible. And it was like a bomb blast because his legs were gone and everything was in small fragments, so it was apparent there was no chance of reattachment," said Trammell, the orthopedic wizard who has traveled the CART circuit the past 20 years along with Dr. Steve Olvey.
"But both femoral arteries were ruptured and Alex was bleeding profusely. He was in big trouble."
As the Simple Green rescue team, CART's crew of full-time paramedics, was opening up an air passage in the 34-year-old driver, Trammell tried to stop the bleeding.
"I grabbed a belt from one of the safety workers and made a tourniquet for the leftside and put a pressure dressing on the rightside," Trammell said. "Getting the bleeding stopped and maintaining an airway were the priorities, but we were racing against time."
After accessing Tagliani's condition and determining he didn't have any life threatening injuries, Olvey rushed over to confer with Trammell.
"Terry had the bleeding stopped, but Alex had lost 70 percent of the blood in his body and was still bleeding internally," Olvey said. "He had four of five pelvic fractures, which causes bleeding, and a blood buildup around his liver.
"When you have massive hemorrhaging it affects the ability of your blood to clot and you don't know what's going on inside. We didn't know if he had a ruptured spleen or what else could be damaged with an impact like that.
"You can bleed to death internally, especially in Alex' situation."
The next critical decision was where to take the two-time CART champion.
"There was a hospital in Dresden, but Berlin had a world renown trauma center and that was only 25-30 minutes away by helicopter," Olvey said. "We decided to bypass the infield medical center and go right for the helicopter.
"Alex needed massive blood transfusions, his fluids replenished and to repair his clotting mechanism."
Trammell and Olvey said the next half hour was the toughest.
"At best, it was 50/50 whether he would be alive when he got to Berlin," Trammell said.
Added Olvey: "The ICU doctors told us that in another 10-15 minutes, they wouldn't have had a chance to save him."
Zanardi, who was thankfully unconscious throughout his ordeal, came out of his induced coma Wednesday, but is still heavily sedated and looking at one more surgery Friday. And the prospect of finding out he lost both legs.
"His wife (Daniella) wants to tell him and she's a very strong lady," Olvey said.
It was a brutal end to a career that blossomed in CART during 1996-98, when the colorful Italian won over the American public with his driving and personality. Had Tagliani's car hit two feet further forward, Zanardi would have likely walked away. Had it hit two feet further back, in the cockpit, he would probably be dead.
But quick reactions and the professionalism of Trammell, Olvey and CART's safety crew insured Zanardi he would be around to watch his son, Niccolo, grow up.
"The happiest thing for me to see would be Alex walking around the paddock in the near future," Tagliani said.
A sentiment shared by the entire CART paddock.Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
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