“Engine room reporting–pump is functioning adequately. No problem here.”
“Storage compartments reporting–pressure way down and volume dropping.”
“Bow reporting. We have a severed fuel line here. Fuel loss is heavy. Need assistance repairing fuel line or all power will be lost.”
What’s happening here? A disaster at sea aboard a ship, or could this communication be happening inside the human body? If the “fuel loss” were changed to blood loss and the “fuel line pressure” were really blood pressure, this could be a description of traumatic shock in progress. If the “severed shock in progress. If the “severed fuel line” (artery) is not repaired, the delivery of oxygen to cells could fall too low to support life.
Traumatic shock is a condition resulting from a dramatic drop in blood pressure, causing an inadequate delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells and tissues. What could cause this collapse?
One cause was demonstrated in the story: not enough blood circulating due to blood loss. Bleeding can result in rapid shock. So can fluid loss from other sources, such as vomiting, diarrhea, heavy sweating, fever, or a lack of fluid intake. This would certainly drop blood pressure as the body takes water from the blood to be used by cells.
Lack of Oxygen
Even when blood is circulated normally, it must contain oxygen. Suffocation, gas poisoning, airway obstruction, or damage to the respiratory system that prevents breathing could all decrease the amount of oxygen available to the blood. The result could be shock.
Even when there is enough blood, and there is oxygen in the blood, it must be pumped by the circulatory system’s “engine room” — better known as the heart. Many things can make the heart less efficient, including a heart attack in which a portion of the heart muscle dies. Other causes of inadequate heart function could be an alteration in the heart rhythm (too fast, too slow, or irregular beating), or a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism), which prevents circulation of oxygenated blood. Changes in the acid/base balance of the body can also interfere with heart function.
Vascular Space Increases
If you were using a garden hose to water your lawn, and the water were shooting out adequately, what do you think would happen if the diameter of the hose were suddenly doubled without an increase in water pressure? The water would just dribble out. In the human body, the blood vessels can expand and contract to channel blood into the organs where it is most needed. Some injuries to the brain and spinal cord can cause the blood vessels to dilate or enlarge all over the body, resulting in a drop in pressure and oxygen delivery. Diabetic reactions, allergic reactions, and liver problems can also cause this sudden increase in vascular space.
Imagine that one or more of the above causes were taking place in a person’s body. What would happen? How would the person look?
The body tries to compensate for a decrease in blood pressure by causing a number of changes. For example, the heart rate increases to compensate for the blood loss. This produces a rapid but weak pulse. The blood vessel size may change, causing the person’s skin color to pale or even become blue. Pupils in the eyes may dilate. The rate of breathing may increase to make up for the lack of oxygen delivery.
These are signs of traumatic shock:
* Weakness and dizziness or shaking
* Rapid, weak pulse
* Shallow, rapid breathing
* Pale, cool, moist skin
* Dilated pupils
* Nausea and/or vomiting
First Aid for Shock
Shock occurs to some degree in most major and many minor injuries, so it is wise to treat for shock even before it appears. To do so, follow these steps:
1. Check to see that the person has adequate breathing and an open airway.
2. Control bleeding, if you can.
3. Elevate the person’s feet about 12 inches to improve blood flow to the head.
Exceptions to this step are:
* if the person has head or chest injuries
* if the person has possible neck or spinal damage
* if the person has difficulty breathing
* if the person appears to be having a heart attack
If any of the above are evident, leave the person flat. If the person is bleeding from the upper half of the body or has difficulty breathing, elevate the head and shoulders.
4. Prevent loss of body heat by placing a blanket over and under the victim. But do not overheat and do not move a victim with neck or spinal damage.
5. Keep the person lying down.
6. Make a note of the person’s pulse and respiration rate, and watch for any changes. Give this information to emergency personnel when they arrive.
First aid for shock is relatively simple but can be vital to survival. You do not need advanced training to treat for shock. The simple act of covering a person or elevating feet could be life-saving.