Bicycle medics handle game day emergencies

Sunday, October 2nd 2005, 6:26 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd, but Emergency Medical Services Stat paramedics prove every game day you can bicycle through a mob of Sooner fans.

EMSStat crew chief Sean Lauderdale remembers 10 years ago when he joined Norman's emergency services. Football games drew smaller crowds and used fewer paramedics.

But despite the larger crowds, paramedics have found ways to reach their patients faster and more efficiently on the fully equipped bicycles.

``We saw the bikes as an avenue, so patients didn't have to wait to be treated. From their location to Gomer Jones (Cardiac Center), we could go to them with the bikes and be pretty efficient about it,'' Lauderdale said. ``I think we are a lot more effective than what we used to be.''

EMSStat has a staff of 39 people and uses 21 on game days to cover the town and the stadium.

On a typical game day in the early season, bike medics may treat 100 to 120 patients.

``We improved the way we do things and expanded it based on the needs that we've identified in the stadium,'' said Eddie Sims, manager of EMSStat for Norman Regional Hospital.

They can see just about any kind of medical malady on game days, from heat problems or allergic reactions to heart attacks, strokes, falls or other trauma.

``The first couple of games, depending on the time that they are at, the majority of what we do is heat-related,'' Sims said. ``With the exception of car wrecks, we see everything we would see on a normal day.''

The logistics can be mind-boggling to the uninitiated.

Four bicycle medics are stationed throughout the stadium, with responses coordinated by a bike supervisor. Another medic is stationed on the upper deck on the east side. A two-medic team is dedicated to players on the field.

``OU has been very proactive in assuring that the best care possible is provided to their players in all sports,'' Sims said.

A coordinator in the Gomer Jones Cardiac Center acts as a liaison between all the agencies in the stadium with the physicians and nurses who are there. The center usually sees between 80 and 100 patients during the first couple of games, with two to seven transported to the hospital.

``Then we have a supervisor in charge of the entire stadium operation who is one of the commanders who deals with anything that happens _ if they need any more resources or whatever it might be,'' Sims said.

Three or four ambulances are at the stadium with one for the field and another dedicated for transport.

``And their primary mission is that if a patient is seen in the cardiac center and needs to be transported, they are readily available to be loaded up and if they leave, I send a truck to take their place,'' he said.

Of course, they don't forget the rest of the town.

``We have our normal weekday staffing for the town, which is four ambulances, a crew chief and a supervisor. Normal Monday through Friday type of staffing,'' he said.

Then they have plans for those sorts of things you never think would happen.

``If we have a little disaster, we have a lot of vehicles there we can use. If we have a big disaster, all these medics are going to be doing initial treatment and triage and EMSA is going to come down,'' he said, referring to Midwest City and Oklahoma City ambulance crews. ``You have to think about what is never going to happen ... It's a concept of how do you utilize your resources.''

A year and a half ago, OU sponsored a homeland security drill with a similar scenario for all the public safety agencies involved in a football game.

``Just so we could all be thinking about what would you do if...,'' he said.

Life in the fall for paramedics pretty much revolves around OU football. That means no vacations during the season for crew chiefs or supervisors.

And games are not the only times EMSStat looks after OU athletes.

``We take care of the players during training, starting with their two-a-day practices. We help with their hydration, those kinds of things so we kind of get to know the athletes and the training staff,'' Sims said.

Their days aren't done until the athletes' days are done.

``An ambulance stays around for the athletes until well after the game _ pretty much until they are checked out and they've gone home,'' Lauderdale said.