Donated blood saved Tinker man

  • Published
  • By Mike W. Ray
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Massive blood transfusions were required to save the life of a 38th Cyberspace Engineering Installation Group employee injured in a motorcycle mishap a decade ago.
"I'm a living testament to the value of donated blood," said David Smith, branch chief in the Engineering Squadron, 38th CEIG.

In June 2004, Mr. Smith and a close friend, David Hurley of the Air Force Space Command, 38th Engineering Squadron, traveled to Kentucky to rehabilitate the cabin in which Mr. Hurley's grandmother lived.

"I brought my sport bike and tools," and for several days the two labored at renovating the house, Mr. Smith recalled. On the third day, a Wednesday, they took a break and went for a motorcycle ride in the mountains.

Mr. Smith was in the lead on the return trip when, about 2 p.m., at a bend in the road, he encountered a woman driving a Mustang in his lane. "I instantly moved to the right side of the road, which was sand," and when he applied the brakes his 1200cc motorcycle veered into a guardrail.

Although his bike was "doing only 5 or 10 miles per hour" by that time, "it was enough that when I hit the guardrail at an angle, the back wheel of my bike pivoted around and smashed my left leg into the metal rail."

Mr. Smith said he "went flying through the air" and rolled down the hillside. When he finally came to a stop, his left foot was twisted backward and lay "up by my thigh." In the initial throes of shock from the compound fracture of his lower left leg, he straightened his injured leg, from which blood was gushing.

Mr. Hurley applied a tourniquet and flagged down a passing motorist, who happened to be a nurse. She didn't want to get involved but she did notify the county sheriff's office. The sheriff dispatched an ambulance and a helicopter and then raced to the scene of the mishap.

Mr. Smith was first placed in the ambulance, then transferred to the medevac helicopter.
"I lost so much blood that I couldn't move and couldn't speak, but I could hear what the med techs were saying. One of them said he couldn't even get a reading from my pulse. The other one said, 'Just keep trying.'"

Mr. Smith uttered a silent prayer. "I let the Lord know that although I was single at the time, I wanted a family. Then I passed out."

Because his dog tags were on his key chain, some blood was already available by the time Mr. Smith arrived at the University of Tennessee Level 1 trauma center, and he received an immediate transfusion. Then he passed out again.

During an operation, surgeons discovered that Mr. Smith's left fibula was "pulverized" and "had a tough time stemming the bleeding." During the procedure he received an implant and 46 pints of blood -- five and three-quarters gallons. "The human body holds 10 to 12 pints," he noted.

Doctors told Mr. Hurley that they didn't expect Mr. Smith to survive through the night, and he had the loathsome duty of notifying Mr. Smith's parents and siblings.

However, Mr. Smith, then 34, did survive. He was in an induced coma for about a week, remained hospitalized for another two months, and then went into rehab. He returned to his job at Tinker after a four-month absence.

Mr. Smith subsequently married his longtime girlfriend, and two years to the day after the traffic accident his daughter was born.

Mr. Smith said he was a blood donor before the wreck and still donates faithfully, as often as possible. "I know firsthand what the value of donated blood is."