Medics afoot to help at Boston marathon

By Joe Vieira
The Boston Herald
Copyright 2008 Boston Herald Inc.

BOSTON — Medical personnel working at the Boston Marathon yesterday received a lesson in cause and effect, as the second-biggest field — 25,310 runners — in the event's history and a bit more sunshine than expected resulted in a sharp increase from last year's race in terms of the number of patients at both aid stations along the course and in the medical tents at the finish line.

As of 5 p.m., some 1,165 runners (including 20 who were seen at area hospitals) had been evaluated by medical personnel, according to Lt. Chris Stratton, the public information officer for Boston EMS. Sixty-one of those patients were transported to area hospitals with ailments that included cases of hypothermia and hyperthermia, hyponatremia and hypernatremia, and cardiac and respiratory problems. However, according to Stratton, only nine patients were considered to be in serious condition and none was thought to have life-threatening problems.

A majority of runners seeking medical treatment had minor ailments, such as cramps, cuts, blisters and mild dehydration.

The overall number of patients, which Stratton expected to grow as the day went along, represented a sharp increase from last year's total. In 2007, a little more than 500 people were evaluated; 50 were transported to hospitals.

Yesterday's weather, which was slightly warmer (mid-50s) with more sunshine than forecasts originally called for, likely played a role in the increased number of runners needing care.

"I think (the weather) was a little different than people anticipated,'' Stratton said. "That may have been a factor. Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint some of the factors involved (in the increase of patients), but if I had to lean one way or the other I'd say the weather was a little bit different than what people might have been anticipating, so their preparation might have been different. Sometimes you just can't predict these things.

"You try to prepare for everything, hope for the best, and then deal with what you're confronted with.''

Runners who checked in for medical attention evaluated the conditions — their own and the race's.

"I've never experienced a crowd that thickly packed together in those early stages,'' said Hugh Beasley, 53, of Atlanta. "There was a lot of body heat from the crowd.''

Added 21-year-old Eli McMahan, of Oregon: "When I finished, I was dizzy. High as a kite.''

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