Trauma season injuries, violence and coronavirus keeping hospitals busy

Trauma season injuries, violence and coronavirus keeping hospitals busy

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The period from Memorial Day to Labor Day is commonly referred to as "trauma season" by emergency doctors and nurses.

Statistics show it's the period when emergency rooms and trauma centers are often at their busiest.

Dr. Peter Fischer is head of the Elvis Presley Trauma Center at Regional One.

He says doctors and nurses in his unit are as busy as ever right now.

"Some of this is related to trauma season, which we just kind of consider the summer months. People are going to get outside more, you know, or they're on boats or on ATVs," said Dr. Fischer. "But we also have seen a significant increase in the amount of penetrating injuries."

Dr. Fischer says penetrating injuries are injuries like stab wounds and gunshot wounds.

"We've seen a significant increase in violence in the Memphis metro area starting kind of since the stay-at-home order ended," said Fischer.

Take early Sunday, for example.

In a span of just nine hours, Memphis police responded to at least one deadly stabbing and four different shootings that claimed at least two lives, including a 16-year-old girl.

Violence like that means more work for doctors and nurses in hospitals that already dealing with issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We've actually seen a very significant number of patients who have come in for traumatic reasons, and have very significant injuries from their traumatic injury, but also are testing COVID-19 positive," said Fischer. "We actually have right now in our trauma ICU a special section cordoned off just for trauma patients who also happened to be COVID-19 positive."

Whether it's the virus, the violence, or just typical trauma season injuries, taken together, they can overwhelm the best-prepared professionals.

"Just the strain on the staff is significant," said Fischer. "We work very, very hard to take care of our patients."

When emergency departments become too crowded, they'll often divert patients to other hospitals, so they don't have to wait as long to be treated.

Fischer says it's "rare" for the trauma center to do this, but he says it has been happening more often lately.

"It hits us hard when we have to go on diversion. We know that the region hurts when we go on diversion and we hate it more than anything else," said Fischer.

According to the latest data available from the Tennessee Department of Health's Trauma Care Advisory Council, more than 35,000 people in Tennessee suffered traumatic injuries in 2017. Over 2,800 of those people were treated in Shelby County.

In 2017, falls accounted for the majority of traumatic injuries reported (14,207) in Tennessee, followed by motor vehicle crashes (8,809); struck by an object (2,057); gunshot wounds (1,921); assault (1,885); motorcycle crashes (1,705); other mechanism (1,066); pedestrian (879); ATV incidents (875) and stab wounds (536).

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