As volunteer marshals it’s part of our job to help people in an emergency. We see a driver get injured, we call it in and seek medical assistance. But what happens when we as marshals get hurt?
I’ve had the misfortune of getting injured on several occasions now, and wanted to share my story to hopefully help out a fellow marshal in a similar situation, should it occur.
My most recent experience was during the WEC race at the Circuit of the Americas. Through a variety of circumstances I felt nauseous, some shooting pains in my stomach and in short order I managed to get a ride to the Medical Center to get help. Now saying the description above would likely get it dismissed as a minor incident. But consider the facts. Leading up to the race weekend I caught a bug. Something gave me food poisoning, not sure what… I was being especially careful knowing full well I will be away from home for a week, camping at a track with long hours on my feet and I knew I couldn’t afford to get sick. I got sick nonetheless. If you have never dealt with food poisoning it will be hard to understand the consequences. But with only one day rest before my flight, my entire rib cage hurt from puking every so often for over 24 hours. Needless to say I was not 100% when I arrived in Texas. And that’s important to consider when dealing with worker well-being on station. Sure our activities may not be all that strenuous to you, as a turn captain or a post chief, but you never know what your colleagues have gone through. Once at the Medical Center it was discovered I was battling high fever and was dehydrated. Despite my best efforts to keep my fluids up during the day, drinking lots of water, soft drinks and Poweraid, I still managed to get dehydrated. The treatment I received at COTA, with a bunch of pills to deal with fever and an IV drip for the dehydration worked wonders immediately. But had I not gone to seek help I would have been rather miserable the next day, because let’s face it: it’s not like I would have “slept it off.”
I had a similar experience at Silverstone a few years back while volunteering for the British Grand Prix. The outcome was completely different to what I experienced at COTA, mainly because I didn’t know what to do or ask for once I reached the Medical Centre. I twisted my foot getting out of the tent on Friday morning, hours before any track activity had started, and essentially my weekend was ruined. The pain was excruciating. I hopped on one foot to get to the bathroom which shot sharp shooting pains throughout my body. Sitting, standing or even laying down caused pain, sharp pain. There was no position I could be in so it didn’t hurt. So naturally I made a trip to the Medical Centre where they poked my swollen foot, looked in my eyes and with a smile said “it will hurt a lot more tomorrow!” And like an idiot I walked away cringing from the news, and hurting from the pain that terrorized my body. Sure it was a simple sprain, but at the moment it was the most ridiculous pain I had ever experienced. Nothing was broken but it might as well have been. And it wasn’t until the last day, Sunday when I found my way back to the Medical Centre with the help of a media person on a golf cart, and started demanding pain killers because I couldn’t take it anymore. Incredibly, as soon as I took the simple pill of Ibuprofen I felt immediate relief and it made me wonder 1). Why didn’t I ask for this sooner? and 2). Why wasn’t it offered in the first place? Since then I’ve started carrying a simple first aid kit that has basic pain killers, but by the same token they wouldn’t have done much for my nausea example from the COTA incident. So it pays to utilize the Medical Centre’s at each track if need be… considering they’re designed to treat everyone from spectators to the drivers, it’s an invaluable resource to rely on. At Silverstone I spend the three day weekend hidden in a shed on station, with a pack of ice over my injured foot.
I’ve had other incidents with minor injuries that didn’t require a trip to the medical center, though it helped having medical staff around. During my second Singapore Grand Prix I cut my finger climbing a fence to remove some signage that was blocking our view. One of the nurses on our station washed the wound with peroxide and insisted I get a tetanus shot once I get home, wherever that home may be. In New Zealand I followed another marshal to get to the station through the spectator area which required climbing a wire fence. It was raining, I was wearing several layers including a fairly restricting rain suit, and while the jump over the fence was fine, the landing wasn’t. I felt immediate shooting pain from my knee up throughout the body. And it only got worse thru the day. The night after I spent tossing and turning, almost hallucinating from the fever and pain, but the next morning I could whobble out to the street to catch my ride to Hampton Downs. There, my flag chief who’s a former nurse, gave me her knee brace and I felt sufficiently better to finish up the weekend.
So moral of the story, if you are going to volunteer it’s likely that you may get hurt doing so. Be prepared, but if you’re not please don’t hesitate to take advantage of the available help. You are not being a pest, you must look out for your own best interests first before helping others. You also don’t want to become a liability should something happen and you cannot perform 100% because you are suppressing a pain that should have been addressed. Use the available resources and please be careful out there!
Remember to thank your Doctor 🙂