Memorial Day weekend one of LifeFlight’s busiest ever

LifeFlight helicopter (Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center saw perhaps its busiest weekend ever this Memorial Day holiday, with more than triple the volume of patients treated during a typical weekend.

LifeFlight, Vanderbilt’s air trauma unit, responded to more than 70 of the area’s most critical patients, filling Vanderbilt’s Emergency Department and Trauma Unit with tragic and often preventable injuries.

“LifeFlight had one of its busiest holiday weekends ever in its 27-year history,” said Jeanne Yeatman, R.N., EMT, interim administrator of Emergency Services.

Victims of automobile, boating, motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle accidents flooded Vanderbilt, and many of these accidents could have been prevented or significantly reduced in severity with proper safety precautions, said Rick Miller, M.D., chief of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care at Vanderbilt.

“We saw multiple car wrecks where victims were not wearing their seat belts; several motorcycle and ATV accident victims were not wearing helmets and were driving too fast; and alcohol played a role in poor decision making in a variety of cases, including boating accidents and even stabbings and shootings,” Miller said of the more than 60 admissions in the Trauma Unit alone this holiday weekend.

Another reason for the high volume, said Corey Slovis, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, is mixing too much fun with the sun.

“It is impossible to do routine activities once it’s sunny and above 85 to 90 degrees without making real changes such as increasing breaks, taking in a lot more fluids and wearing a hat and light, loose-fitting clothing,” Slovis said. “If you feel funny or just ‘not right’ then get out of the heat.”

Alcohol is also a big contributor to accidents and injuries, causing impaired judgment and lack of recognition of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, Slovis said.

“People who mix too much alcohol with activities that require concentration, like operating any type of vehicle, risk killing themselves and others,” Slovis said.

Vanderbilt’s Adult Emergency Department sees more than 55,000 patients each year and has the only level 1 trauma center in a 150-mile radius. Vanderbilt LifeFlight recently added a fifth helicopter to its fleet as part of its community mission to reduce response times and better serve patients. It is the only not-for-profit air medical service in Middle Tennessee that carries lifesaving blood.