By Lisa Shrewsberry
If Dr. Jim Kyle, medical director at Beckley ARH Hospital and Region 1 EMS medical director, wasn’t a Scouting enthusiast before, count him in now.
Jammed wrists and ankles. Broken legs and arms. Even the smallest playgrounds bear “inherent danger” disclaimers. This may well be the world’s largest playground.
While the 40,000 Scouts expected to descend upon the 2013 Boy Scout Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve will be cushioned by every precaution implied in the “Go Green, Go Healthy, Go Safe” pledge, areas like The Mountain, with over 273,000 square feet of BMX bike trails, demand not only helmets, but guardians with medical degrees.
“This is the first time the Jamboree hasn’t been held at a military institution,” Dr. Kyle explains, going through the rigorous standards that must be in place to address emergencies unable to be resolved inside the Summit.
Beckley ARH CEO Rocco Massey commented that Scouting has always been associated with adventure. “But now, they’ve dropped it into wild wonderful West Virginia, with high-impact activity and winding adventure trails. The medical community doesn’t know exactly what to expect.”
So, for well over the last year, regional hospitals and hospital personnel have been about the business of being prepared for the instantaneous, thrill-seeking population boom expected to hit like a hurricane on what Kyle calls “the ides of July” — July 15.
Scott Hale, director of Emergency Management at Beckley ARH, commented that much like a Scouting expedition, managing the preparations for hundreds of potential medical problems creates uncharted territory for the area and for Scouting in general.
“There has been no other Jamboree like this. Everything we’re preparing for is based on projection.”
The numbers fluctuate, but it is believed anywhere from 80 to 200 injuries per day could present to local hospitals resulting directly or indirectly from the National Jamboree.
“These aren’t just Boy Scouts, they’re Boy Scout athletes,” emphasized Kyle. “There will be a fleet of doctors onsite, but only two x-ray units. If you brush a tree and hit your eye, you’ll need an ophthalmologist consult. If you hit your head, a neurology consult.”
“God forbid if something major were to happen,” contributed Massey, “but we are geared up to have more resources, more towels and tubing and IVs, and we have an emergency management plan and a matrix — mapping out our day-to-day activities on an hourly basis, for the whole hospital.”
In addition to arranging for two extra orthopedic specialists for coverage for the week-plus, Massey and his team have added ophthalmology and optometry coverage, new eye care instrumentation, six new ER nurses, one additional trauma doctor and a plastic surgeon. Psychiatry and psychology consults are extra medical padding to address even the most unanticipated needs of a diverse pre-teen and teen population.
Dr. Robert Dunne, Summit and Jambo 2013 EMS Medical Director, explained projections about injuries at this point are to assist medical and EMS professionals in being as prepared as the Scouts they’ll be serving. “We tried to base numbers on what we know about active sports and on the number of people expected. We have a lot of activities at this Jamboree, but Scouts will always have to have a helmet when biking or climbing and they’ll have to earn their way (with instructors) into certain activities. You wouldn’t just put a beginner on an advanced trail.”
Dunne, who has been involved in Scouting for much of his life, said this Jamboree will be unlike any other in history, adding there is a degree of unpredictability with a launch of any kind. “In general, even with a perfect amount of planning, there’s a lot you have to learn. The (previous) site for Jamboree had been used for more than 30 years. This is the first year, on a site where there was no initial infrastructure.” Still, from a Scouting perspective, Dunne anticipates an amazing and ultimately safe experience for attendees. “They’ve done a great job preserving the outdoor adventure feel on a large scale (at Summit Bechtel Reserve).” The difference from past Jamborees to this? Like going from “the state fair” to, say, Disney World.
Dr. David Schlinger with Hospital Physician Partners and his team of three other elite emergency medicine professionals will also be present on the campus of BARH and Plateau Medical Center, Oak Hill, for the duration of the event.
“They have 120 ER contracts around the country,” explained Massey, “and he’s an avid scouter himself from Arizona. He’s supporting what we’re doing down here, and BARH is the epicenter of the prep work. We are also the closest facility, at 8 miles from our entrance to Summit Bechtel Reserve.”
Using a favorite expression, Dr. Kyle explains the Jamboree isn’t the only reason southern West Virginia will be “jam up and jelly tight” come July.
“The Jamboree is still going on during the Friends of Coal Auto Fair. And, it’s unconfirmed that President Obama will make an appearance, but historically, presidents have always come to the Jamboree opening.”
Right now, the Summit is reminiscent of a scene from Jurassic Park, both in scale and untamed surroundings, the home of something not just big, but epic. Land transforms into a medium for riding, gliding, climbing and jumping within one dozen separate high adventure areas.
What translates thrills to Scouts, however, interprets potential spills to the medically-minded.
According to Hale, in addition to young, athletic Scouts in tip-top shape, there will undoubtedly be Scouts with diabetes or other medical conditions like asthma, conditions that might be aggravated in the great outdoors. Accordingly and from the onset, BARH will be “operating as if we are in disaster mode” for the Jamboree’s duration, Hale explained.
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Col. Dr. Steve Eshenaur, State Surgeon for the West Virginia Army National Guard and Summit Bechtel Reserve medical director, has been involved in Scouting since childhood and maintains the greatest respect for the organization.
“Scouting taught me a lot about leadership and teamwork.”
Scouting principles — loyalty, helpfulness, courteousness and kindness included — have assisted him well along his medical career path. Eshenaur is taking the lead position in organizing the Summit’s internal medical staff, a volunteer corps of 800 in place for the Jamboree and doing so on a volunteer basis, rotating services for 24-hour a day coverage.
Eshenaur recently led an external meeting involving 12 hospitals and the region’s medical command and 911 call centers, hosted by BARH as part of continued planning for the Scouts’ mass arrival.
“It’s essential the community and the state of West Virginia be adequately informed, prepared and capable of accepting this large influx of people,” he stated. “There will be safety equipment at all times to insure the Scouts can be part of a very active program and stay safe from accidents and injuries — and have fun.”
In the Boy Scout spirit of being prepared for anything, Eshenaur reviews the litany of potential injuries with groups to help them prepare and coordinate efforts, to form a seamless transition from medical services offered at The Summit to a local or regional hospital, if needed.
“The biggies are orthopedic injuries, such as broken bones, sprained ankles, and also heat-related conditions — dehydration, blisters and insect exposure.”
Dr. Eshenaur expressed that he’s “very thankful for the tremendous support, planning and recognition by the health care systems of the need to improve their response in the event of a large influx of patients.”
The energy invested in receiving the state’s Jamboree visitors is also facilitating a larger vision of West Virginia’s mass casualty responsiveness, Eshenaur added. But at the end of the day, at least for a 10-day stretch this July, it’s all about the kids.
“The Scout parents need to feel comfortable and safe to leave their children at the Summit. They are giving them to us to take care of,” he stated. “For every injury, we need the right asset, in the right place, at the right time, every time.”