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Medical tent busy tending cases of heat exhaustion, dehydration

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  April 16, 2012 01:45 PM

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A steady stream of runners was being ushered in to the medical tent in wheelchairs. Many are sun burned and covered in sweat and vomit. Family members are standing outside the entrance to the tent searching for their loved ones. Physicans interview people as they arrive to assess their mental state. One unconscious man was brought to the tent via golf cart. Media members interview runners and wait for another briefing from the doctors. Volunteers comment that they think it's gotten hotter. This reporter agrees. No shade left at all out here on Boylston Street. A doctor scrambles to see if an extra tent could be set up at the entrance to provide some relief from the sun.

At 4:28 p.m. Dr. Pierre d'Hemecourt emerged briefly, but had no word for the media and ducked swiftly back into the medical tent. One volunteer coordinator explained the tent will be broken down in sections in a bit.

The flow of people has slowed to one to two people every few minutes. For medical personnel the end of a very long day is in sight.

Mid-day update
D'Hemecourt provided a quick update as to what types of problems runners are encountering.

He said thus far there have been no cases of heat stroke, but they are dealing with many cases of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

"It's still a bit early to see the heat stroke, but we expect we will see some of that," he said. "I think there was some positive response from our advice to slow down and so for some of the elite runners, the soreness may not be as bad since many slowed their pace."

No update or details have been released on a female runner who collapsed. We will keep following that for information from medical professional as to that runners condition.

One runner, Julie Burner, said today's race felt very much like the last Boston marathon she ran in 2004, when temperatures were as high as they've been today.

"Honestly, I feel like it was worse in 2004, but I ran smarter this year and kept pouring water over my head and had a lot of water stops," said Burner, 43.

Despite the heat, Burner had a time of 3:27. In 2004, she finished in just over four hours.

"The last miles were the hardest for me since my legs were cramping up at that point," she said.

Water supplies increased
The importance of water cannot be stressed enough for today's Boston Marathon. Racers sweating under record temperatures will have to replace fluids, but also must be careful not to over hydrate, which can cause medical complications.

To give you an idea of how much water is around the course, here's some information from Poland Springs. 

-          Typically, the BAA gets 288 5-gallon bottles of Poland Spring Water at the first water stops (2-14) and 328 5-gallon bottles at the remainder of the water stations.

-          This year, in anticipation of the high temperatures, they’ve increased it to 408 5-gallon bottles at all of the hydration stations along the course.

-          They’ve also added about 28,000 single serve bottles to the supplies they already had at the start and finish lines – close to doubling the efforts.

-          Water will be provided at official hydration stations all along the course, including the hydration station at Mile 19, where there will be live DJ entertainment to help encourage the runners as they head toward Heartbreak Hill.

Medical tent expects busy day
Located on Boylston Street at the corner of Dartmouth Street, the amount of activity inside and around the medical tent is ramping up as doctors and volunteers continue their prep work. The tent is not in the direct sun right now, but it's starting to really warm up here.

According to d'Hemecourt close to 1,200 medical personnel are on hand to care for runners and spectators. D'Hemecourt said any runner in need of care will be assessed upon entering the tent. "If they are able to walk and their mental state are important  to determine where they will go next" he said. "If they are really in distress they would be taken to the level 3 area right next to where Boston EMS is set up for care." 

With high temps and inexperienced runners, the medical tent will likely be a busy spot.

Marathon personnel outside the tent aren't allowing members of the press inside, so many of us are waiting outside to speak to any doctors and volunteers who come out.

Huge wooden palettes holding crates of water sit just beyond a barricade past the tent. There's a slight breeze right now but come noon time the blazing sun is going to be a factor competitors the runners will have to deal with.

Wheelchair racers seek attention
After some of the wheelchair racers crossed the finish, some have turned right into the medical tent looking sweaty, tired and, thirsty.

We haven't gotten an update on how things are going in the medical tent, but it appears calm inside with some volunteers and doctors standing in the tent's entrance to watch the scene at the finish line.

As one racer was interviewed at the finish, she told a Channel 4 reporter she wasn't affected by the heat much. The elite racers who have trained properly seem to be holding up well. But many on staff in the medical tent said they are more worried about those folks running Boston for the first time for charity. We have a bit before we see any of those folks here on Boylston Street.

A team of students from UMass-Lowell recording weather data for the BAA just told me it's 83 degrees at mile 26. Medical personnel said members of the media will be briefed by 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the status of how busy medical teams have been thus far.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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