published Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Dozens injured on slippery ice

by Emily Bregel


• Outdoors, wear lug or rubber-soled shoes or boots, or buy a device with prongs/spikes to wear over the soles.

• If you slip, try not to break your fall with your arms. Instead, begin to roll to avoid injuring wrists and arms.

• Bend knees to keep your center of gravity low so there is less distance to fall.

• In case of a fall, it’s not usually necessary to call an ambulance unless bone has come through the skin.

• Keep blankets, a cell phone, flashlight and water in the car in preparation for trouble on the road.

Source: David Wharton, Erlanger emergency room

On her ice-slicked driveway in Rossville, 24-year-old Carrie Fitzsimmons felt like she was acting out a scene in a slapstick comedy.

Early Wednesday morning, she slipped on her driveway as she tried to dig her Nissan Sentra out of solid ice. After she got up, her mother walked out and immediately slipped on the same spot. Minutes later, her father took a spill on the same patch of ice, even after witnessing both earlier wipe-outs.

Luckily, only their pride was hurt, Fitzsimmons joked.

“We just got bruised,” she said. “We’re glad none of the neighbors were outside to see.”

But many haven’t been so lucky.

Local emergency room staff say dozens of people have been injured this week, mostly in wrists and ankles, falling on ice-crusted sidewalks, parking lots and driveways as Chattanoogans dug out from the biggest snowstorm since 1993.

“We are seeing many more injuries from adults falling, but it is the elderly population who has the most severe injuries due to brittle bones,” Dr. David Wharton, Erlanger emergency room and trauma physician, said in a news release.

Still, all ages are vulnerable to the ice.

“The young people sometimes underestimate the danger and are fearless. They take unnecessary risks sometimes, and they end up hurting themselves,” said Dr. Guy Fain, medical director of the emergency room at Parkridge East.

Parkridge East’s ER has averaged about 16 weather-related injuries a day this week, including lacerations and orthopedic injuries such as broken ankles and injured hips and shoulders, he said.

On Thursday alone the T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital emergency room treated 14 children with weather-related injuries, including fractures, lip lacerations and a head injury.

The ER treated at least three more Friday.

Erlanger’s downtown emergency room treated at least 30 patients this week for ice-related falls and orthopedic fractures.

Fain recommends using de-icer to clear sidewalks and driveways and holding onto a rail if possible.

If you slip, trying to catch yourself with your hands could cause injury, he said.

“It’s a natural instinct to reach and brace yourself, but if you can, instead roll and use your body to cushion the fall,” he said.

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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