Thursday, June 27, 2002

Mission medical needs rise with temperature

By Tim Bonfield,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Should the Rev. Billy Graham need emergency medical care during one of his appearances in Cincinnati, Jim Benken figures to be involved.

        “I probably will assign myself to that duty,” Mr. Benken said.

        Mr. Benken is director of special operations for Medic One, the company providing paramedics, ambulances and other medical support to the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Billy Graham Mission.

        Medic One plans to provide 20 paramedics and emergency medical technicians to staff six first-aid stations at Paul Brown Stadium. A crew of 25 is planned for Saturday.

        While the declining health of the 83-year-old minister — he has Parkinson's disease and other ailments — requires some contingency planning, Mr. Benken's biggest concern is how the crowds handle the summer heat.

        “These kinds of events are very weather-dependent,” Mr. Benken said. “If it's 80 to 82 degrees, things go smoothly. But once it gets above 86 degrees, the heat becomes a problem.”

        Forecasters predict temperatures in the low 80s for today and Friday, but mid- to upper 80s for Saturday and Sunday.

        In hot weather, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and asthma attacks and other breathing problems are expected to be the most common problems. But with a crowd expected to include a fair share of elderly and chronically ill people, anything can happen.

        Medic One has more than 30 ambulances that make about 300 runs a day in Greater Cincinnati, mostly taking patients from nursing homes to hospitals. The company has provided first aid support for Bengals games since the team moved into Paul Brown Stadium.

        “We're experienced in dealing with large crowds. But this crowd won't be like a football crowd,” Mr. Benken said.

        An older crowd can be expected to arrive with more pre-existing health problems, an increased risk of suffering in the heat, and of falling on steps. But there won't be any alcohol sales, and there should be little risk of injury from fights and rowdiness.

        To prepare, Medic One has stocked up on IV solutions and breathing treatment supplies and will have several ambulances ready to roll.

        “We'll be reminding people to be careful, but no matter how much we preach to people, some will still have problems,” Mr. Benken said.

        If a disaster occurs, a regional mass casualty plan would take effect. The Cincinnati Fire Department would take over immediate emergency command. Hospitals, life squads and other emergency workers from the entire region would be called upon to help.


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