IMS Medical Staff Ready For A Hot Indy 500

by Allan Brewer

You wake up on a Sunday morning and suddenly realize you are the doctor for a temporary city of nearly 300,00 people. A prominent fraction of those under your care are going to engage in highly risky activity at exceptional speed, and a sizable number of persons around them will be handling fuel, at risk for burn and injury. What do you do to make sure everybody gets the care they need?

Dr. Jeff Bellows, the chief medical officer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will wake up to just that reality on Sunday, May 29th when the Greatest Spectacle in Racing collides with The World’s Greatest Single-Day Sporting Event. On the track, Dr. Bellows has five ambulances for the drivers, augmented by seventeen more on the grounds for fan needs. On top of that, there are paramedics stationed around the track to serve any immediate concerns of drivers or fans.

The infield hospital at the Speedway is a modern 18-bed care center that is staffed with six physicians to aid Indianapolis 500 drivers if a need should arise. For fans and other staff, the medical facilities are equally generous with 15 first aid stations scattered in the grandstands and infield. There are also seven roving medical teams that cover the huge surface of the track and infield by golf cart. In all, there are twelve physicians and twelve nurses at the race to care for the ill.

The greatest health concern Dr. Bellows sees on Race Day is the likelihood of a very hot and humid day that may lead to heat stress, heat stroke and heat exhaustion—the latter of which can be life-threatening. “The key to avoid heat illness is to hydrate,” he said. “And do it before you are actually feeling thirsty as by then you are already way behind.” His recommendation for a safe 100th Indy 500 is simple: drink a cup or two of fluids (non-alcoholic, and without a lot of sugar in them) every hour.

Dr. Bellows is the head of the highly-respected Methodist Hospital of Indianapolis emergency room when he is not traveling with and giving care to IndyCar drivers and staff.

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