July 10, 2008

Accidental Tourists

By Vanessa Mccray, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

Jul. 10--TRAVERSE CITY -- Blisters, sunburns, slivers and scrapes -- those are the types of medical maladies that send visitors to the National Cherry Festival's first-aid tent.

And, there was that one problem with the plastic top from a pop bottle.

"Somebody got one of those stuck on his girlfriend's toe last year," remembered Dennis Mikko, the festival's emergency services coordinator.

Fortunately for the girlfriend, the first aid folks had something to cut through plastic, so the festival-goers didn't need to leave the festivities to free the foot. The first aid station is located near the Open Space welcome tent and typically staffed from noon to 11 p.m. during the festival, which runs through Saturday.

It's not just major events that brace for an increased demand for medical services. Summer brings tourists and accidents of all kinds.

Munson Medical Center's emergency department averaged about 140 patients daily, but in the early days of July, the number bumped up by about 20, said Manager Kristi Johnson. She said visits never really tapered off from last summer. Common summertime injuries include car, off-road vehicle, bicycle and boat accidents.

"You name it, we get it," Johnson said.

The Traverse City Fire Department expected as many calls during the week of the Cherry Festival as it might receive during a normal month-and-a-half span, said Chief Jim Tuller. Calls have increased by a little each month, a trend he attributes to efforts to develop year-round tourism.

In the summer, the department responds to heat-related problems such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This year, Tuller anticipates more accidents involving walkers and cyclists. There are substantially more travelers on foot or bike as people forgo cars because of high gas prices.

"It's a marked difference. All my firefighters are telling me that," he said.

Dr. Michael Parker of Bayside Docs Urgent Care in Traverse City said clinic visitors suffering from insect bites, bee stings, poison ivy and campfire burns make summer one of the busiest times. Wounds from walking around barefoot or mishandling firecrackers are common but can be easily avoided.

"Everything is just so preventable. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Parker said.

Insects are attracted to perfume, floral designs and fruit. Wear water shoes on the beach and light fireworks carefully, he suggested.

Lawn mower, power tool and boating accidents bring patients to Leelanau Urgent Care in Lake Leelanau, said Manager Janice Lemak. Business picks up in late June, gets more harried around the Fourth of July and winds down in August when children return to school. Some patients drop in to avoid the drive to Traverse City and the hospital wait, she said.

A defibrillator and oxygen tank are stashed at the festival first aid tent just in case, but one of the most requested items is sunscreen, Mikko said. He was surprised by the number of parents who forgot to protect children and babies from the rays.

Travelers can do a number of things to stay safe on vacation. Lemak recommends researching where medical facilities are located before leaving for a destination. Tuller said drivers should be patient while navigating congested streets. Johnson advises everyone to program an emergency contact into their cell phone and carry a list of medications and allergies.

There's one other simple rule to enjoying the summer: drink plenty of water.

"Beer doesn't count," Johnson said.


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