A Day in the Life of a Trauma Surgeon: Get Your Foot Off of My Dash

Dr. Michael Delaney
by Dr. Michael Delaney

WARNING: If you think this picture is too gross, do NOT hit the jump. – BS

We have all seen it before. You are cruising right down the road, and it immediately catches your attention. There is a female passenger in another vehicle with her feet up on the dash. Imagine the horror if someone did this to your brand new vehicle!

The nightmare came true for both Bob and Carol. They were running errands around town and Carol put her foot up on the glistening dash of Bob’s new SUV. Holding back his true thoughts, Bob politely says, “Honey, please get your foot off of my new dash.” Carol replies, “I am just admiring my new pedicure like you’ve been admiring your new SUV.” As the conversation heats up, Bob becomes distracted while making a left hand turn at a four-way intersection and fails to yield to an oncoming vehicle. Distracted as well, Carol still has her foot on the dash at the time of impact.

Brake pedals are slammed to the floor and evasive maneuvers fail. Bob’s brand new SUV is struck in the right front corner sending it into a spin, before it rolls over onto its roof and slides to a stop. Fortunately, all the occupants of both vehicles were seat belted and most were able to walk away from the crash. Carol was not so lucky. As the passenger frontal bag deployed, it pushed Carol’s foot through the windshield and her toes were amputated as the vehicle slid on its roof, dragging her foot across the hot summer asphalt.

One can only imagine the pain and fear when Carol looked down and saw that her toes were gone. After stabilizing Carol for transport to the hospital, the good-intentioned paramedic recovered her missing toes. After transferring Carol’s care to me, he said, “here are her toes for you to put back on.” I smiled and thanked him, knowing well that was not going to happen. Not only were two toes completely missing but the three amputated toes along with her foot were too badly damaged to perform a reimplantation.

Carol received a complete trauma evaluation, and fortunately the only injury was to her foot. We took her to the operating room and cleaned things up, leaving Carol a functional forefoot amputation. After a couple of days of physical therapy she was back on her feet. Humor truly is good medicine, especially with trauma patients who tend to forget how lucky they are. Carol could have lost her leg, both legs, her life. One day on rounds I told her I had good news and bad news for her. The bad news, Carol, is you lost your toes. The good news is your pedicures will be half-priced. But hearing the phrase, “you won’t be standing on your tippy-toes” brought a momentary scowl to her face. We both laughed and Carol was grateful for her life and not having been injured worse.

Lesson: ladies keep your feet off of the dash, bad things can happen quickly. For guys like Bob, always pay more attention to your lady than your new vehicle.

Dr. Delaney is a trauma surgeon, lifelong automotive enthusiast, shade tree mechanic, race fan, and motor vehicle safety expert. During his career, he has seen injuries one just cannot make up, and many of them involve motor vehicle crashes. He has been telling these stories for years, and he thinks it’s time to write them down.


Due to overwhelming demand, we produced this handy reminder. Cut out and stick to dash. You are welcome.

Dr. Michael Delaney
Dr. Michael Delaney

Dr. Delaney is a trauma surgeon, lifelong automotive enthusiast, shade tree mechanic, race fan, and motor vehicle safety expert. Many of Dr Delaney's childhood memories involve being slung around the back seat of a 1967 Mustang driven by a European mom whose previous car was a Citroen 2CV. While Dr. Delaney has focused his professional efforts on better understanding the injury-producing events that occur during motor vehicle collisions, he is not one of those safety "experts" who wishes cars would go away and people would just ride buses and trains. Dr. Delaney's goal is for drivers to enjoy enthusiastic driving safely. "During my career, I have seen injuries and heard stories that you just can't make up, and many of them involve motor vehicle collisions. I have been telling these stories for years, and it's time to write them down. I hope you enjoy them, learn something, and most importantly—make safer choices. In my line of business all too often, regrets are forever."

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