Norton Audubon Hospital preparing for influx of patients during - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Norton Audubon Hospital preparing for influx of patients during Derby weekend

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With its close proximity to Churchill Downs, Norton Audubon's ER becomes the first choice for first responders transporting patients from the track. With its close proximity to Churchill Downs, Norton Audubon's ER becomes the first choice for first responders transporting patients from the track.
Renee Cecil, Nurse Manager for the Norton Audubon Emergency Department., says they expect to see about 400 patients between Oaks and Mother's Day. Renee Cecil, Nurse Manager for the Norton Audubon Emergency Department., says they expect to see about 400 patients between Oaks and Mother's Day.
During Derby week, Norton Audubon expects more patients than it has rooms, so the emergency department lines the hallway with beds. During Derby week, Norton Audubon expects more patients than it has rooms, so the emergency department lines the hallway with beds.
Lt. Col Frank Apanewicz says Churchill Downs has enough spectators to become Kentucky's third largest city. Lt. Col Frank Apanewicz says Churchill Downs has enough spectators to become Kentucky's third largest city.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's one of the busiest places on Derby weekend you probably never think about. At Norton Audubon Hospital, the term "they're off" has a whole new meaning. 

"We'll see about 400 patients over the next three days," said Renee Cecil, Nurse Manager for the Norton Audubon Emergency Department. 

Those patients can include anyone from injured jockeys, to drunks from the infield, to people suffering with severe sunburn. 

"We could probably write books about the stories we've seen," Cecil said. "For instance, there was one gentleman who was brought from the track out here for treatment and during his treatment he found out that he won, and he wanted to leave to go back to the track and cash in his ticket so he could get his winnings."

Cecil said the patient agreed to stay after the staff promised to help get him back to the track after he was released.

During Derby weekend in Louisville, the emergency room off Poplar Level Road is a first responder's first choice.

"It's totally different on Oaks and Derby. Churchill Downs becomes its own city with 110,000 to 170,000 people. "It really becomes the third largest city in Kentucky," said Lt. Col Frank Apanewicz, with Yellow Ambulance. 

"We have direct communication to Audubon," Apanewicz said. "Anytime we transport a patient. we'll radio contact them, and they'll get a bed. 

Heat strokes, heart attacks, slips and sprains are common reasons for a trip to the ER during Derby weekend. First responders strive to get patients from the track to the hospital in 10 minutes or less.

"Mentally, it's taxing because it's a week of preparing," Apanewicz said. 

That preparation includes loading ambulances with extra IVs, syringes and fluids, as well as making sure there are ample medical supplies at the track to do triage in the field. 

"We bring in extra stretchers, extra recliners whatever we need extra equipment and extra staff as well," Cecil said. 

The hospital expects more patients than it has rooms, so the emergency department lines the hallway with beds. 

It's "three days of 14- to 16-hour work days," Apanewicz said. "It gets long. When you get a minute, you take a minute, take a deep breath and get ready for the next patient." 

Indeed, "they're off" means something much different at Norton during Derby week: perhaps the greatest few minutes in medicine.

Interestingly, Norton Audubon is one mile further from Churchill Downs than University Hospital in downtown Louisville. We're told major trauma cases like shootings will still be sent there.

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