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Military and Medical Questions
Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:35 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

A few questions:

1. How badly can someone in say, the Air Force, be injured without it ending their stint in said branch of the armed forces?

2. Is it possible for a piece of a fighter plane to lodge itself in a man's side, not cause him to bleed out, but also not be removable by hand?

3. How large would said piece of fighter plane have to be for the surgery scar to run from armpit to hip bone?

4. If that piece of plane were to have torn through the ejecting pilot's parachute, how far away from ground could said pilot be for the impact (through some trees onto forested floor) to knock him unconscious but not kill him?


Danielle Bowers
Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:48 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 280

2. It's possible but you have several vital organs to deal with. Kidneys right above the hips in the lower back, liver, intestines, lungs and that's not counting major blood vessels and arteries. If there is an actual puncturing of the cavity wall you can have intestines spilling out and shock would be a given. Best case scenario would be a piece of the plane lodges into his hipbone, no vital organs and the bone itself is thick enough that something could get lodged in there good and tight.

3. Armpit to hipbone? Unless he has a gash already there that needed stitching, no doctor would cut in that way with that length. There would be nothing but ribcage for half the incision and if they needed to get under that the incision would be in the front near the sternum so they could crack the ribcage that way.

1. and 4. I can't help too much with. I can go into more detail when I'm nt remoting my home machine.

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 10:27 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

Thanks for the input. The project this was for has been shelved for good after a few drafts. But if anyone else wants to ask or answer other military/medical related questions I guess here's as good a place as any.
Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013 12:26 AM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195

Most writers end up using trauma and/or serious medical emergencies (someone has a heart attack/stroke/) because these add tension and interest to plots.  Therefore all writers should learn some basics, before they come up with a story idea that relies on a medical impossibility.  (The same is true for any area of research...don't let a story idea take hold until you know it's at least remotely plausible.)

So where do you get your medical info?   Simplest background place: a community college that has classes for EMTs and Paramedics.  Their bookstore will have the current edition of one of the standard texts...and those texts will give you enough about anatomy, physiology, and trauma care to get you through many (not all) the things you'll need for most stories.   And enough that you can then ask the right kind of medical personnel for anything else you need.  

One useful approach, if you make friends with someone who does trauma care for a living, is to ask them what kind of injury would produce the story result you need.  For instance:  "I need to keep my main character unable to drive a car for three months, so that she's forced to depend on this other character to transport her...and it would help if the injury also made her unsteady on her feet sometimes for at least a few weeks.  What sort of thing would accomplish that?"    Or:  "I need an injury that puts my main character into an ICU for at least six days, so he's not available when something else happens, and he won't know about it until he's out.  But he has to fully recover, so he's able to go on a long hike two months later.   What would do that?"

In other words, you start with the story's requirement (that someone be out of commission, at any level from slightly lame to in a coma, for a given length of time)  and then work backwards to the kind of trauma or medical condition that would produce the effect the story needs.  

On military stuff:  get to know military personnel, to the point where they'll trust you enough to tell you stuff.  Ask them what they like and don't like in fiction dealing with military personnel.   Again, don't make up the story and then go  ask questions, hoping to be told you're right.   It helps to have read a fair amount of military history and military science.   It helps to have been around military personnel of various levels, so you know that how a sergeant talks to another sergeant is not the same as how a sergeant talks to a lieutenant--which is not the same as how the sergeant talks to the colonel, or the lieutenant to the colonel. 

Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 10:21 AM
Joined: 11/4/2013
Posts: 2

I realize this is an old topic, but I am a 22 year paramedic with a background in flight, military and critical care, as well as EMS education and street level 911 care. I am happy to help "flesh out" ( pun intended) any medical questions.



--edited by croaker260 on 11/6/2013, 10:22 AM--

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 10:09 AM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78

1. Depends on the air force in question.  Minor injuries to essential body parts could end a career.  If the pilot can perform at the required levels once healed from their injuries they can sustain serious damage and return to duty.  In most democracies this is the case.


2, 3: Big, very big.  Not really a medical expert but I suspect such an injury would incur more damage to the ribcage than anything else - potential for lung injuries and certainly rendering any modern pilot unable to fly (think G suits with a weakened rib cage).  This piece would likely not lodge in instead cause blunt damage.  Vehicles are giant pieces of shrapnel, very likely during combat for pieces to become impaled.


4. Basic physics tells us that humans reach terminal velocity at around 120mph, without the use of jump suits or glider suits of course.  Terminal velocity means after that speed the falling object no longer accelerates.  The force of gravity is equal to the force of friction from air.  It takes about 1,000 feet of freefall for humans to reach this speed.  All that to say, any height higher than 1,000 feet and the impact speed on the ground is the same.


Falling is a funny thing.  Many have died falling less than 100 feet where others have survived falling a whopping 35,000.  Research some of those stories and you might get an idea how to make your character's fall and survival plausible (word of caution, surviving a 35,000 foot fall seems implausible even in reality haha).

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 7:58 PM
Joined: 1/23/2014
Posts: 44

croaker260 wrote:

I realize this is an old topic, but I am a 22 year paramedic with a background in flight, military and critical care, as well as EMS education and street level 911 care. I am happy to help "flesh out" ( pun intended) any medical questions.



--edited by croaker260 on 11/6/2013, 10:22 AM--

Hey Steve, Not sure if you are still active around here. If so, would you mind helping me out with medical emergency one of my minor characters is having?

In a nutshell, he dies, flatlines at the hospital and the docs/nurse have to go through the routine of what they would do in that situation - officially announcing his demise I uess ... I have no idea what the procedure would be, what they would do or say. 

The setting just skimps over the guys demise, as it is kind of happening in the background as my main character descend upon him and consumes his soul.

Any info would be greatly appreciated.




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