SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Medical teams are preparing for the Indy 500 as it returns to full capacity in just three days.
Staff from several different health care providers, including Indianapolis EMS (IEMS), Indiana University Health and American Medical Response (AMR), will be on hand to help provide medical assistance to anyone who may need it.
“It’s a busy time for us, you know. It’s something that everyone marks on our calendars,” Dr. Dan O’Donnell said. , but now we’re going to be full throttle heading into the race weekend.”
O’Donnell, who is chief of the IEMS, said his staff are working with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and healthcare providers participating in the race, to ensure care is seamless for spectators inside and outside the track. .
Not only will IMS be back at full capacity, with room for over 300,000 fans for the first time since 2019, but the Indy 500 Snake Pit will return, welcoming tens of thousands of fans for the Day of the Year concert. race.
“It’s always a fun time and people ask us, what’s the weather like? I say, well, it’s raining and then it’s hot, so that’s what you get,” said Andy Myers, in town from Akron, Ohio, for his 20th Indy 500.
If we’re talking about this year, Myers hit the nail on the head. After a few rainy days, temperatures are expected to warm up, reaching near the mid-80s on Sunday for the biggest racing show.
The medical staff know this means the potential for a busy day and everyone plays a role in ensuring that if a spectator or race participant needs medical assistance, there is nothing to complain about. .
“We’ll be busy, there’s no doubt about it. That’s what we’re here for, that’s to take care of people,” O’Donnell said. “We are well placed to take care of people as they enter the stadium and then as they exit.”
IEMS will also be part of the medical team working inside the Snake Pit field hospital on race day. It is one of two, in addition to IU Health’s field medical center, that will operate for people in need of care.
The IU EMS Fellowship Program will also help support the field center by helping to staff it.
“Snake Pit Hospital is a hospital. We will have the capability, like most emergency services, to treat minor to major injuries and illnesses,” O’Donnell said.
Anything major would be a matter of stabilizing a patient and then transporting it, O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said people tend to be misled by cooler temperatures when they arrive in the morning and said he couldn’t overstate how important it is to stay hydrated beforehand and everything throughout the day.
“I guess the sun really starts to come up around 11 a.m., we’re going to be busy, really until the race is over and we know that,” O’Donnell said.
He encourages people to not only take care of themselves, but to keep an eye out for friends and family members they may be around with. Their main goal, O’Donnell said, is to be able to help improve people’s experience and ensure they can continue to enjoy the day as long as they don’t suffer a serious injury or illness requiring a transport.
“Again, no one is here to cause anyone trouble. We want to make sure we take care of people and respond to any emergencies early on,” O’Donnell said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to ship you off and you’re going to miss your good time. If you get there and you cool down, we can do an assessment and make sure nothing else is going on and let you get back to business.
In 2019, when temperatures were only a few degrees warmer than forecast for Sunday, around 110 people were transported from the snake pit.
Around the race track there will be free hydration stations and well-marked cooling stations.
In addition to services for those attending the concert, there is a second field hospital run by IU health staff.
Earlier this year, IU Health announced its partnership with IMS to modernize the field care center. Not only has it been structurally remodeled, but it now has all new patient beds, new code carts, new nurse waiter carts, new disposable curtain system, and new vital signs machines. Monitors and AEDs have been upgraded, while an additional ECG has been added. This is just the beginning.
According to IU Health, they will have about 16 nurses in the field care center, along with eight emergency medicine physicians for spectator care and two emergency physicians for driver care, Dr. Billows and Dr. Vaizer. .
A trauma surgeon, neurosurgeon and orthopedic surgeon from IU Health will also be present on Sunday. This only scratches the surface for the level of care available on race day.
There will be six IU Health track surface ambulances available to respond to the track in the event of a race accident and 20 spectator ambulances on site for spectator care. A spokesperson for the health system said staff at ambulance services and the 15 first aid stations around the property include about 125 AMR doctors and paramedics. 10 additional doctors, who will take care of incidents that occur in the pits, will also be on site.
The IEMS said it was operating in an all-hands-on-deck capacity on race day, but people who are usually away will usually work overtime to ensure they can run the race, while providing quality care to people in need of services across Indianapolis.
“We have a city to take care of. This big race is going on, I know they’re their own town there, but we still have our citizens and visitors having their normal Sunday on a holiday weekend,” O’Donnell said.
He shared that the IEMS will move some on-duty ambulances to the runway in case it is needed for additional help transporting patients.
Medical care begins even before race day
Because IEMS is responsible for ensuring those off the track also receive medical attention if needed, their staff will be on hand and ready to go from Friday evening.
“We will have a medical presence there, to make sure they stay safe and are taken care of,” O’Donnell said.
There will also be a command center set up on Georgetown Road near the Coke Lot, where staff will be on hand to help people camp or just be there for the festivities.
“There will be a command center where we will deploy our paramedics and we will have paramedics and paramedics on carts so they can navigate through lots and coke fields,” O’Donnell said.
This staff will respond to any call for assistance in this area.
“The goal is kind of to assess people, to treat minor injuries if we can. We will have two doctors there on Saturday night to do minor treatment if needed,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve gotten really creative in how we provide medical care at these campgrounds.”
With so many people coming from out of town, he said the goal was to be able to provide care for people, so that no one needed to go to the emergency room for something that could be assessed and treated by his team.
“On a race weekend it comes and goes, you know, if it’s a rainy race weekend it’s pretty calm, not much going on,” O explained. ‘Donnell. “Generally Saturday night is busier for us, there is a lot more foot traffic. A lot of people, not just the campers, but everyone comes to enjoy the experience the day before the race.
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