Synopsis: Paddler flipped at the top of Shurform striking her head. She sustained a fracture of C6 and C7 with neurologic deficit (left hand weakness). The injury required surgery and she was admitted to an ICU. She is out of the hospital and recovering in a neck brace.
On May 26 Molly Superchi was seriously injured while kayaking on the Bottom Moose. She overshot the second reactionary in Shurform and flipped off the wall on the shallow slide. She ran the remainder of the slide upside down. She was stunned at the bottom and unable to roll. She was paddling with a group including Justin Crannell. He pulled her out of her boat.
Olivia Linney, an MD in emergency medicine residency was paddling behind Molly. Molly was in the water complaining of extremity numbness. She could not feel her arms or legs. She initially complained of an inability to move her extremities, but regained gross motor function within a few minutes. She did have residual left hand weakness. Her helmet was severely damaged.Olivia determined there was a high risk of spinal injury. Her husband Greg went for help. He called 911 from a nearby house.
No cervical collar or backboard was available. The team decided Molly's head was too unstable in the water and there was significant risk of hypothermia with prolonged rescue time She needed to move to a solid surface. Olivia held Molly's head to maintain c spine immobilization while a large group lifted and carried her to flat bedrock about 20 feet away.They discussed using a boat as a spine board and decided against it.
First Responders arrived within ten minutes. They waded across the shallow river with PFDs on. They brought a c collar, spine board and Stokes Basket. Molly was fully immobilized and carried across the river to an ambulance. She spent five days in an ICU. Her fractures required surgery. She will wear a brace for several months.
This case underscores the seriousness of shallow, powerful features common on the east coast.
It is also a reminder that while we try not to move patients without a c collar and backboard, every situation is different and it is important to consider risk versus benefit. Spinal immobilization is a controversial topic in prehospital medicine. Factors such as cold water, delay to definitive care, scene safety, ability to stabilize, etc should be considered when deciding when and how to move patients.
Reported by Olivia Linney, Molly Superchi and Adam Herzog