Marathon Outreach in the South Bronx

No “extra hour” at the time change for me: yesterday I was up at oh-dark-hundred yesterday to get to my Mile 20 post at the ING New York City Marathon with my radio. As usual, I got checked into the local mile communications and into the medical net before the first precursor bicycles whizzed past our South Bronx location. (I learned this morning that a couple of Team Type 1 cyclists were among them…)

My usual role in the race’s amateur radio communications network is to support the medical aid station at Mile 20, providing both initial and final logistical communications regarding the First Aid station’s setup, and backup communications to the race Medical Director in case of serious injuries and medical incidents that need more care than can be provided in the field. (Primary communications are conducted over more secure channels.)

Each First Aid Station is headed by an emergency-medicine doctor or sports-medicine doctor – the Medical Mile Captain – who has received additional training in the types of injuries likely to happen when someone subjects his or her body to the rigors of a marathon. For the most part, these are muscle cramps, blisters, the occasional scrape or cut, or the need for additional sodium. On a very cold, damp day, some runners may develop hypothermia. On a warm day, there’s a risk of heat exhaustion. Lest you think this is all – pardon the expression – a walk in the park, there are the quirky, odd, one-off issues that really do require the services of an experienced medical doctor and the assistance of a staff with both medical training and practical experience.

Since Mile 20 is about three quarters of the way through the course, we have a fair amount of downtime between station set-up and the time the first runners come through in need of assistance. If the Medical Mile Captain is new to our location, we will sometimes discuss the types of issues for which the runners request aid. As the medical volunteers come in, the Medical Mile Captain will go over general procedures and changes to the treatment protocols (this year, for example, there was no “Icy Hot” – it’s not effective). This year’s Medical Mile Captain was not the same as last year’s, but he had previous experience at this Mile Point. It was a sunny day, and cold enough for me to be uncomfortably chilled in winter clothes – in other words, perfect Marathon weather.

I have to credit TuDiabetes and other online diabetes social networks here: when a set of syringes were inventoried in (this year the Medical Mile Captain had onsite IV capability), I was reminded of last year’s runner whose Mile-8 hypo ended up in a 500+ mg/dl reading at Mile 20 and an ambulance ride to the hospital. As I mentioned the incident to the Medical Mile Captain, one of the first medical volunteers on to check in – an EMT – expressed the opinion that so high a reading was pretty much impossible. (I guess she must not have had much experience with Type 1 Diabetes.) Thanks to all of you guys, I was able to tell her (and later on, some of the young medical residents, who were more concerned with having glucose-tabs available) that with some T1 folk, extended exercise can result in dangerously high blood glucose readings. Whether it’s an infusion set that’s worked loose, an adrenaline response (the infamous “liver dump”), or something else, I’ve learned from you folk that with T1, pretty much anything can happen when you least expect it. Lows? We always have tons of Gatorade…

While watching the first push-rim wheelchairs run past us, one of the young doctors saw the JDRF walk button on my coat and showed me her blue JDRF wristband. I showed her mine, worn along with my Diabetic Rockstar and “Marijuana is Medicine” wristbands, and the World Diabetes Day pin on my hat. She hadn’t known about WDD. Fortunately, I took a couple of spare pins with me. Each came attached to a card with the WDD website… I gave her one, saying she needed it to go with the blue bracelet. The pin went on her coat, and she has the card to follow up with.

Of course, talking about diabetes was a great segue to let these guys know about our social communities – and about Diabetic Rockstar’s upcoming NYC event. While I didn’t remember all of the details, and misremembered some, I did refer them to the Web site, and I may have drummed up some interest in the event and in DR’s “Fight It” charitable arm. Since I keep a list of my diabetes communities on the back of my personal business card, I was able to give the young doctors information for later follow-up. And as we split for the day, I passed the rest of my 4 x 6 cards to the Medical Mile Captain to pass around at work.

FWIW, we had a very good Marathon… light on medical traffic, no major incidents… the way we all want the Marathon to be…

I left tired, cold, but very psyched. A good Marathon, plus opportunities for outreach on top of that – great way to spend a day!