Emergency rooms seeing increase in patients, injuries as people work to clean up neighborhoods

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 6:23 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - With so many people out working to clean up their yards and fallen trees, at least one hospital is now saying its emergency room saw record-high numbers.

The City of Five Seasons is now a city of one sound throughout the day: chain saws.

People across the city are either cleaning up their own yards or helping others like Frank Maher on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids.

“[It was] very emotional, my wife was very upset,” Maher said. “We were here when the storm hit and scared the heck out of us.”

Maher and his neighbors have been busy, picking up what the derecho left behind throughout their neighborhood.

“Well what we’ve done, as you can see, is I’ve been cutting a lot of wood, covered in our yard, over here, just to make a pathway to our house,” Maher said.

Getting help has made a big difference for Maher and other homeowners like him; in this instance, that help came from guys like Bob Kalous, a realtor in Cedar Rapids now helping out his neighbors with maintenance.

They are working as a team to keep one person from overworking. That serves as part of the reason places like Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids have seen record-high numbers into the emergency room in recent days. The emergency room at Mercy Medical Center saw 249 patients Tuesday and 247 on Wednesday.

“[We saw] a lot of eye injuries, people getting foreign bodies in their eyes, seeing a lot of lacerations, chain saw injuries, people even operating heavy equipment that are injured by trees falling,” said Dr. Matthew Aucutt, the Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Mercy Medical Center.

Other hospital emergency rooms saw similar numbers. Staff with UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids said its emergency room saw 265 patients in a 24-hour span, as of Thursday morning.

Numbers in Johnson County were lower, as staff with Mercy Iowa City said its ER saw about 50 patients because of the storm.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics did not have any specific numbers as far as injuries or visits to the ER related to the storm specifically, but staff did say they have been seeing patients with storm-related injuries, including from falls and lacerations.

Falls, serious lacerations from chainsaw use, and concerns over carbon monoxide poisoning have been a number of concerns from the area hospitals, but also saw a number of patients on oxygen coming into the ER because there was no electricity and their equipment needed charging.

While some of those problems cannot be controlled during a natural disaster, working in a team to recover can help. Those out working like Maher and Kalous will tell you: it might seem like common sense, but there are safety tips worth reminding.

“Just be smart, know how your tools operate, safety equipment, these are actually safety goggles, safety gloves,” Kalous said.

Aucutt stressed the importance of taking your time when out working.

“A lot of people are rushing to get items that they’ve never used before and rushing to get things done,” Aucutt said. “A lot of these things aren’t time-sensitive, you really need to protect yourself and, once again, safety first.”

And working patiently is something the group helping Maher is putting to practice.

“‘Cause this isn’t going to be done in five minutes,” Kalous said.

“No, this is taking days,” Maher said.

“Maybe months,” Kalous added.

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