Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 | 10:22 a.m.
The sidewalks around Allegiant Stadium last month were hot and crowded with eager football fans approaching the Raiders home field for a preseason game, the first contest in front of a live audience.
Liz Groesbeck was in the back of a rideshare also headed toward the game, on a first date, at a red light at Valley View Boulevard and Russell Road.
A student at Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV, her days are packed, and this was a chance to relax. But also as a medical student, when she heard screaming and saw a man on his back about 20 feet away, she had to spring from her car and into action. She didn’t know what happened, but she assumed someone needed help.
An SUV had jumped the curb, struck the man and thrown him with enough force to dent a light pole. On the ground, Groesbeck found a gruesome scene: the man was struggling to breathe, unresponsive and bleeding heavily.
“When I walked up I realized why people were screaming,” she said. “One of his arms was completely severed from his body.”
Groesbeck, a third-year student, had just finished an intense hands-on training block in emergency general surgery the prior day. There was nothing she could do for the man’s arm and she didn’t know about internal bleeding or spinal injury. But a major artery runs through the upper arm, clearly putting this patient at risk of quickly bleeding to death.
With a student physician’s assistant — whose name she didn’t catch — Groesbeck used a witness’ belt as a tourniquet on the man’s hemorrhaging shoulder and used shirts from bystanders to sweep out his mouth, which was filled with blood from severe facial injuries.
She directed someone to call 911, and other people to comfort the man’s wife and shield her from the horrific scene.
With help, Groesbeck got the patient as stable as possible during the 5 to 10 minutes it took for paramedics to come. She’s not sure how long it actually took,as time bends strangely in a situation like that.
Then, using a police officer’s disinfectant wipes, she scrubbed herself of blood and continued the walk to Allegiant with her wide-eyed date, told her family why she was late, and washed up again in a stadium bathroom before watching the Raiders defeat the Seattle Seahawks.
In addition to the man with the arm amputation, a female pedestrian suffered a broken arm in the collision. Both were unnamed in a Metro Police report.
Ashleigh Nicole Bacon, 33, was arrested the same day on charges related to the crash and booked into the Clark County Detention Center on Aug. 15, according to jail logs.
Bacon was being held on two counts each of felony DUI and failure to stop at the scene of a crash, all felonies, and one count each of failure to decrease speed and driving without a driver’s license, Las Vegas Justice Court logs show. She remained jailed without the possibility of bail. A preliminary court hearing was scheduled for last week.
Groesbeck has seen plenty of blood in her surgical training, but it was in a sterile hospital environment, where she expected to see it, with highly trained colleagues. While lifesaving, it wasn’t trauma or field surgery — it was more like appendectomies and clot removals.
Three years ago, she was the first person to come upon a car accident in Henderson. She tried, but paramedics told her that patient was beyond help. It didn’t come back to her when she stepped up outside Allegiant Stadium, though. She went into work mode.
Though most of the people around her had no medical training, they stepped up too. She said Las Vegans care, and she loves that about them.
“We’re a huge metropolitan city, but we also care about our own. When something like that happens, we don’t have people just stepping over them and continue on their way,” Groesbeck said. “So when we asked for belts to do a tourniquet, before I could even look up there were three belts being handed into the circle around him. When I asked for some kind of cloth there were like five shirts handed over.”
Though she hasn’t been in touch with the injured man, she found out through contacts in the medical community that he was discharged from the hospital alive. She doesn’t want to invade his privacy by reaching out, but she’d be happy to meet him.
She wrote a thank-you note to her surgery professor, University Medical Center trauma chief Dr. Douglas Fraser, after learning that her patient survived.
“Liz was out in the field and put herself at risk in a noncontrolled environment. Usually, I don’t like hearing about students who risk their own lives while trying to help others — they don’t have the protective gear, they don’t have the big red trucks with flashing lights, or partners to protect them at the scene,” Fraser said. “This was definitely above and beyond. I’m very proud of Liz and glad that she is OK and the patient is alive because of her heroic actions.”
Groesbeck shares the credit.
“I think a lot of factors went right for him. I think he got very, very lucky on perhaps the unluckiest day of his life,” she said. “I think a lot of people’s efforts saved his life.”
Ricardo Torres-Cortez contributed to this report