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Duffle Bags Offer Tools of Life: Doctor's Experience Prompts Albany Med to Prepare Items to Help in a Roadside Emergency

Oct. 2--ALBANY -- Dr. Lorraine "Laurie" Thibodeau, a 14-year-veteran of emergency room medicine, hopes her colleagues never experience the helplessness she felt at a roadside accident this summer.

Despite all her medical knowledge and skills, she had no tools to help the elderly victims of a deadly accident she encountered on her way to work.

"I felt powerless because I had nothing at my disposal," Thibodeau said.

On Tuesday, her boss at Albany Medical Center Hospital distributed silver duffle bags filled with the equipment a doctor would need to stabilize victims if they happen upon a scene before the EMTs arrive. The doctors stashed the bags in the trunks of their personal cars.

"This is our attempt to be sure that if ever a time comes when there is something that we can do, we can provide that immediate care that might make a difference," Dr. Mara McErlean said. "We don't want Laurie Thibodeau to be in this position again. It was so painful to her."

Even if she'd had the right tools, Thibodeau didn't have a chance that day.

Enders Ingersoll, 87, and his wife, Bessie, 93, of Montgomery County, were pulling out of Slingerlands Medical Arts Facility when their 2002 Saturn was struck on the driver's side by a car driving along New Scotland Road.

Enders Ingersoll's injuries were fatal, and his wife was seriously injured.

"It was not a case where the man was likely to survive," McErlean said.

Thibodeau didn't want to talk about the accident, but McErlean said, "She did what anyone could do. She held him, but she couldn't do anything more."

Thibodeau, 42-year-old mother of two, reported to work after the accident and worked her shift, but the accident haunted her for weeks.

"This was the first time I had been involved in a significant accident where there was nobody around and no equipment," she said.

The emergency kits were given to Albany Med's 19 attending physicians in the emergency department. The bags contain a mask and ventilator bag to help a patient breath, gauze, ACE wraps, gloves, protective masks, reflective gear for safety, and a needle to aspirate a tension pneumothorax, a condition where air is trapped between the lung and chest cavity.

The doctors -- and all New York citizens -- are protected by the state's Good Samaritan Law that allows people to stop at an accident scene and render aid without fear of a lawsuit.

"I don't feel heroic. Anybody would have stopped and many people did," Thibodeau said. "The positive thing is that our department came up with these bags, and if and when we do come across a serious accident, we can help."

Cathleen F. Crowley can be reached at 454-5348, or by e-mail at ccrowley@timesunion.com

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