By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
As the warm weather settles into the valley, local medical officials are hoping to make residents more aware of how to prevent trauma cases from picking up, as the number usually increases from May to September.
National Trauma Awareness Month actually takes place in May, according to Ray Warriner, a trauma nurse clinician at Winchester Medical Center.
"It's a good month to pick since more people are getting outside, which often leads to outdoor accidents," Warriner said. "You've got your motorcycle enthusiasts, people doing repairs and water activities ... warm weather just always picks up our clientele."
The hospital saw a total of 555 trauma patients in 2011, with 129 of the cases occurring in summer.
Trauma kills 150,000 people a year, with someone dying from a traumatic incident every six minutes in the United States, Warriner said.
"For people under the age of 44, that's more than cancer," he said.
198 of last year's trauma incidents came from a motor-vehicle related incident. Fifty-nine incidents were related to motorcycles and 25 involved ATV's. The age range that saw the highest number of incidents -- 94 -- was 41 to 50 years old.
Warriner suggested that if two things were focused on in trauma awareness, the number of incidents could be cut in half.
"We need to cut alcohol out and get people to wear a seat belt," he said. Warriner also said that distracted driving lends itself to a great deal of trauma incidents.
"You think of the typical 17-year-old with a cellphone in their hand, but it is not just the young people," he explained. "I just had a 40-year-old who came in and it was the result of being in the middle of a text."
Alcohol accounts for 40 to 50 percent of traffic fatalities and 25 to 35 percent of nonfatal motor-vehicle injuries, he said.
Dr. Greg Stanford, the trauma medical director at WMC, said that while drinking and driving crash numbers have declined in the past 20 years, he still sees a fair number of associated cases.
"You mix alcohol with ATVs and other motor vehicles, and I'm probably going to see you," he said. "I'm not saying to give up the activities, but you just have to be careful and watch what your limitations are."
The cost of a trauma unit stay at the hospital can range anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000, according to the center's director, Lisa Wells.
Stanford agreed that getting people to wear seat belts would keep the center from being so busy during the summer. He added that those who are admitted because of a lack of a seat belt often have an extended hospital stay.
Warriner urged residents to always keep safety in mind this summer, whether they be at the pool, on a boat, out in the yard or just driving around.
"I don't want to see you here," he said. "Anything that can be done to prevent accidents, should be."