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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014


Valley News Dispatch: Storm-related ailments keep hospitals busy

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Slips and falls sent many to the hospital last weekend, but doctors were surprised to treat 23 people for carbon monoxide poisoning at UPMC Presbyterian hospital.

"Dr. Donald Yealy, chairman of emergency medicine at UPMC, told us that's more than he's ever seen on a weekend in his entire career," said UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner. "The previous two-day high that he could recall was seven."

The symptoms of 10 of those patients were so severe that they had to be treated in a hyperbaric chamber, she said.

The treatment involves breathing 100 percent oxygen — five times higher than normal air — in a sealed chamber. This improves blood circulation so the blood can deliver oxygen to the body, according to the UPMC Web site.

A patient with carbon monoxide poisoning undergoes a chamber session between 30 minutes and two hours.

However, only extended exposure has to be treated in a hyperbaric chamber. Carbon monoxide poisoning is first treated with oxygen, Zellner said.

Residents without power were using generators or space heaters to stay warm over the weekend. Running a generator in an enclosed space can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide, she said.

"The early symptoms are a mild headache, feeling run down," Zellner said. "Very typical things."

The bodies of McKeesport residents George Mateya, 60, and his daughter Joelle Mateya, 19, were found Sunday in their home. According to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner, a generator was running in the house and blood tests showed they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Emergency room visits were down slightly at all UPMC hospitals last Saturday when the storm hit, probably because most roads were impassable, Zellner said. On Sunday, the numbers were back to normal or slightly above.

Most patients were treated for sprains, injuries from falls or chest pains, she said.

That pattern repeated itself for the second round of snow later in the week as people avoided the roads during snowfall and came to the emergency room the next day, she said.

Todd Morando, emergency department manager at Alle-Kiski Medical Center in Harrison, said the hospital did not treat any cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. The facility does not have a hyperbaric chamber, so any serious cases would have been sent to other area hospitals, he said.

But the hospital did treat a number of people for trauma from falls, including several incidents of internal injuries and broken bones, Morando said.

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