“Trauma Season,” warmer months mean more visits to the ER

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IOWA (KWWL) – The summer months are known as “trauma season” in the medical community as the number of injuries they see spike between the months of May and August, sometimes as much as 30 percent.

“Kids are outside. They’re out of school. They’re excited to be on bikes, playing on things and sometimes forget to take safety in mind,” said Charity Fecht, trauma coordinator at UnityPoint-Allen Hospital in Waterloo.

According to the CDC, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. It accounts for about 12,000 child deaths every year.

It’s not just the children who need to be careful though. There are about a dozen summer-related injuries that ER staff and emergency crews will deal with in the coming months.

Fecht said they see a bit of everything as they are a Level 3 trauma center. Hospitals are ranked from Level 1 to Level 5. Level 5 facilities are the smallest with the least amount of resources. Level 1 hospitals are those like the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

“All of our outlying towns will come into us. We get a lot from our small, rural communities that have first responders,” Fecht said.

Bike injuries account for the most summer injuries – more than skateboards, trampolines, swimming pools and playground equipment combined.

In 2015, emergency rooms treated 488,123 people for bicycle-related injuries. Roughly 1,100 deaths also resulted from accidents between bicycles and motor vehicles.

In eastern Iowa, it’s pretty easy to ride just about anywhere on the bike trails. While they work well for bicycles, they aren’t the best for a full-sized ambulance. However when injuries happen, it’s the responsibility of EMS to figure out how to get to their patient.

“Whether it’s getting off and going out on foot or borrowing a farmer’s Ranger, Gator or something to get you through to the patient. We’re lucky we have those resources we can utilize but certainly it does present a challenge and make the time getting to a patient much longer,” said Amber Heller.

Heller is a nurse practitioner who spends some of her time volunteering on the ambulance service in Denver, Iowa.

As a rural service, Denver has a lot of ground to cover. This means they must be at the top of their game all the time for summertime injuries.

“So when you’re out there, it’s you. In the back of this ambulance, I don’t have respiratory therapy, x-ray capabilities. It’s just me and a partner. Sometimes it’s just you by yourself. It’s YOU trying to figure out what’s wrong with a patient and where they need to go,” Heller said.

Fecht said ambulance crews and small hospitals are crucial in trauma treatment and the survival of a patient.

“They are out there and they don’t have the resources that larger facilities like us and bigger have. You really have to give them kudos for how well they’re doing with those patients, stabilizing them and getting them out the door and getting them to us as quickly as possible when their resources are minimal,” she said.

Both Fecht and Heller said there are always ways to make sure you don’t have to see them this summer. It’s as simple as being aware of your surroundings and using common sense.

“A lot of traumas can be eliminated. If you look at most traumas, there’s some event there that we could prevent that. Working on that prevention is our key,” Fecht said.

It is always a good idea to go with a buddy and make sure to always know the location of where you are. This means either having a paper map or using the GPS on a cellphone.

Collin Dorsey

Collin Dorsey

Weekend Anchor
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