AutoMatters & More: Blue Jeans – Indispensable Safety Gear for Racers (and everyone else!)

Blue jeans are much more than just clothing. They are also an ever-present staple of grassroots auto racing safety gear.

The racing rules and regulations do not specifically require the wearing of blue jeans. Rather they usually specify, or at least strongly recommend, that competitors wear long pants.

Wearing long pants provides an additional layer of protection over bare skin. As an incident a few days ago showed me, blue jean material is especially thick and strong, and can make a real difference.

That day, in the early afternoon, I was talking to my landscaper about my ongoing landscaping project. Since I had been helping out with the manual labor most days, I was wearing blue jeans.

I noticed that one of my neighbors was across the street walking his dog – a large, adult German Shepherd. I crossed the street to chat with him. His dog and I did not know each other but he seemed friendly enough. After a few minutes my landscaper called to me to return back across the street to my yard to see something.

I quickly wheeled around to do so and had begun to take a step to cross the street. Suddenly the German Shepherd bit down hard on the back of my lower right leg.

At first my neighbor thought that his dog had just been gently playing with me, since he has never actually bitten anyone, but the pain in my leg told me otherwise.

Tentatively I rolled up my pants leg. Underneath was a deep, bleeding, nasty, open wound.

My neighbor happens to be a doctor. He was shocked by what he saw and told me that he needed to drive me to a hospital right away. My landscaper, who had seen the whole thing, kept apologizing.

I remained calm as my neighbor drove me to the Scripps Hospital emergency room, but judging by the fact that neither of us could figure out the way to get to the nearby hospital that we both had driven to before (my kids were born there!), we were probably anything but calm.

While we were driving, the subject of other medical emergencies came up. I mentioned my experience with calling an ambulance to take me to that same hospital after what turned out to be a kidney stone caused me excruciating pain early one morning.

He then told me about his recent experience with an emergency room, when last February he had a heart attack. I had not known about that and instantly became very concerned that I not cause him stress.

Our visit to the emergency room lasted about four hours. A doctor cleaned my wound and put in three sutures (stitches). A nurse gave me a tetanus shot. Thankfully the dog was a known, domestic pet that was current on its shots, so there was no need for me to get rabies shots (which I later heard are administered in the stomach area and are really painful). A nurse told my neighbor that the hospital is required to report particulars about the dog to Animal Control.

Before being discharged I was prescribed a twice-daily regimen of what a nurse called “horse pills” (antibiotics) and, assuming that the wound does not get infected, I was instructed to have a doctor remove the stitches in 14 days.

My neighbor feels terrible about what happened and he paid my hospital bill. I, in turn, feel bad for him because he had no reason to suspect that his dog might bite someone. That evening he and his wife surprised me by bringing over a large assortment of fruit and a beautiful flower arrangement.

I often say that things happen the way they happen for a reason. Perhaps the reason for this is that it has already made us better friends.

The next day when I examined the bloody jeans more closely I could not see any puncture marks. The fabric had protected me from the sharpness of the teeth, which no doubt lessened my injury. Unbelievably after I washed them they looked as good as they had been before the bite.

This incident serves to illustrate that blue jeans can provide significantly increased protection as compared to bare skin – not just for auto racing but also for everyday.

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Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #454

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