We were at one of the High School Fencing Tournaments at a local school yesterday.
I was near the front of the event, in the school’s fieldhouse when the Nun who heads up our fencing program ran over and said** “DILLON GOT STABBED”** … my daughter and her team were with me at that moment so I had Melen run to get my first aid kit. I followed Sister Dorothy to find Dillon.
I find Dillon sitting in a chair, another assistant coach is applying pressure to Dillon’s side, a crowd is growing. My first aid kit shows up. There is no official ‘trainer’, EMT, etc in the area. Someone has already dialed 911 for an ambulance. Another teammate’s father gets some ice, applies it to the back of Dillon’s neck and is talking to him to keep him calm. I pull out some gauze pads but still have not seen the wound. Fencers wear SEVERAL LAYERS of gear to prevent this sort of thing. Someone called his mom, who fortunately was already on her way and pretty close.
Slowly we undress Dillon. He’s wearing a heavy Lame’ jacket (electrified jacket), a heavy dual layer cotton fencing jacket, a competition grade ‘plastron’* (a side protector designed to prevent blade penetration)*, and under all that he has on a T-shirt. The problem with Fencing gear is that things like the lame’ actually hook under the crotch too so they step into their clothes, insert their arms and then zip them up. Tough to get all that off when you have an injured kid and are trying to apply pressure to a wound.
We finally get to look at the wound. There is a 3" to 4" gash on his side, then about a 1" area of non-wounded skin, then above the gash is a puncture wound that goes in 1 hole and out another hole about 3" farther back. The blade flexed around his ribs but stayed under the skin (probably under the muscle too). The broken blade tip, about 6" of it, had protruded out of the rear hole. It was removed while Dillon was still standing on the competition strip by the other coach . . . probably not the best idea, but as this evolved it appeared that it became a non-issue.
Dillon never went into shock, the blade THANKFULLY never entered his chest cavity, as it bounced around his ribs under his skin/muscle layer.
Gauze and pressure until the school’s trainer shows up, he seem to be happy with what we did, he continued with the gauze and pressure. Through this Dillon is still alert, no signs of shock, his mom shows up and I pull her to the side and talk with her, explain that even if the trainer says its a flesh wound, and even if the EMTs *(who also just showed up and replaced the trainer) *say that this is a flesh wound, that Dillon needs to get to a hospital because we know that blade was broken off inside him and want to make sure there is nothing left inside him!!! Everyone is really amazingly calm, Dillon gets hauled off in the ambulance . . .
Fast forward a few hours . . .
I spoke to Dillon’s mom about 6:15pm, they were still in the hospital. X-rays (?) showed that there was probably no entry into Dillon’s chest cavity. Dillon was hungry and joking around, I could hear him in the background, the doctors wanted to keep him until 9pm and then send him down for another X-ray (?) to check the chest cavity near the wound again. No food for Dillon until they confirm that the wound is what he thinks it is, once confirmed then Dillon can get some food and probably go home. Dillon got a stitch at the top of the gash where it was a bit wider. He also got a couple stitches to close each end of the puncture.
[INDENT]SO, here are my observations, as someone who has only been involved in Fencing for about 3 years this seem like, and is statistically, a very safe sport. I am spend a few hours each week working on maintaining our team’s equipment, I build Sabers, Epees and Foils, I’ve seen a lot of brands, and lot of parts, have wired these weapons from raw parts, seen a lot of broken blades. BUT this is nothing like anything I’ve seen. I spoke with one of the coaches, he recalls a stabbing that occurred in Saber in 1979. Nobody else can recall a Saber stabbing.
Epee stabbings have occurred, they are rare, but that event is sort of a stabbing style of event while Saber is a slashing type of event.
Still, this was really bizarre because EVERY blade I’ve seen break, either in competition, practice or at the club, has gone flying away. Its sort of the nature of what happens, a break cleanly breaks and the broken part usually ends up 3’ to 10’ away. The curious part is that in this case the broken part of the blade is what was INSIDE Dillon, instead of flying away it actually is what caused the puncture wound.[/INDENT]
I will be getting the blade from the hospital and will be examining it with the saber coach (who is also a more experienced armorer than I am) and we want to look at the break for signs of bending because we suspect that the blade bent 180 degrees and drove into Dillon, snapped off inside him, and then the shaft withdrew leaving the tip BACKWARDS in Dillon’s skin.
The tip of a Saber blade is actually rolled into a blunt loop, it would take a huge amount of force to puncture the skin with the blunt end, and I can’t imagine the blunt end EVER going through all the safety padding that Dillon was wearing . . . especially since his equipment was regulation competition safety equipment.
TECHNICAL NOTE: the broken blade was a LEON PAUL brand blade, conforming to S2000 standards. * (among the best quality amateur blades)*.
And, just for reference, the incident happened on the last touch of the bout, Dillon scored the winning touch and won the bout!