Bare feet prove common victim of Calif. quake L.A. EARTHQUAKE -- AFTERSHOCK

January 19, 1994|By Marla Cone | Marla Cone,Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Throughout Los Angeles, there are hundreds, probably thousands of them. Just look down and you'll see them -- the most common victims of the earthquake.

Feet.

Feet crushed by falling furniture. Feet slashed by shattered window glass or broken china. Feet fractured from panicky, pre-dawn leaps out of bed. By far, the appendages were the most vulnerable body parts when the land underneath them trembled.

Hour after hour -- all night and all day on Monday as well as yesterday -- men, women and children hobbled into emergency rooms leaning on friends and family members. In most cases, they hobbled out with a pair of crutches and feet swathed in sterile white gauze, joining the walking -- make that limping -- wounded of Los Angeles.

Many Angelenos learned the hard way the best rule of thumb in case of earthquake: Always keep shoes or slippers at the foot of the bed.

Among them are Gunner Johnson, 33, who suffered a severed tendon in a toe when an antique china cabinet fell on him. And Shellie Blackson, 23, who stepped on broken glass and split open her foot as she scrambled out of bed in the dark.

Beverly Lucia, 29, was trying to find a flashlight when she sliced her foot on broken glass. In her haste, she didn't even know it.

"I didn't feel anything until I got to my neighbor's house and turned around and saw a trail of blood behind me," Ms. Lucia said.

In most cases, the sprained ankles and torn tendons are minor and can be treated quickly. In some more serious cases, surgeons are so busy that patients are being told to come back in a few days. Both Mr. Johnson and Ms. Blackson need tendon operations, but they have to make do with a temporary repair job of stitches and crutches.

Even yesterday, the wounded kept limping in by the hundreds. Emergency rooms are clogged. At Northridge Hospital Medical Center, near the earthquake's epicenter, several hundred patients were undergoing triage in a parking lot, waiting for hours for their wounds to be examined and sutured.

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