There is rarely a busier weekend in the University of Utah Emergency Department than Easter weekend.
Warm weather means trauma season in the ER, and Easter weekend is the starting line—and it takes off in a full-on sprint.
I wasn’t familiar with the Easter weekend phenomenon until my first year here. I worked the Saturday of that Easter weekend and saw more severe injuries that day than I had seen in the previous month combined.
“What’s going on today?” I asked one of the nurses.
“It’s Easter weekend,” he said with a shrug. “It’ always like this.”
Over the years, I’ve learned more of the Easter weekend phenomenon. In talking with the patients with broken arms, head injuries, lacerated spleens, and punctured lungs, I’ve come to realize a primary contributor to this weekend is the combination of ATVs, sand dunes, and alcohol—and the outcome is often not good.
On Easter weekend, many individuals head for the Little Sahara Recreation Area, located about 2 hours southwest of Salt Lake City. I’ve never been to the Little Sahara, but it sounds like a fun place—known for its miles of trails across the sand dunes and a 700-foot mountain of sand. The site is so popular with ATV riders on Easter weekend that AirMed, our air transport service, stations a helicopter there and spends the entire weekend transporting individuals from the Little Sahara to the University of Utah Medical Center.
And, of course, if you’re working in the ER on Easter weekend, you’re on the receiving end of those transports.
As a Level 1 trauma center, we’re equipped to handle any injury that comes our way—and those injuries range from bumps and bruises to severe head bleeds on Easter weekend. We have trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, and ER doctors at the bedside when individuals with serious injuries arrive, and we have an operating room ready and waiting for these individuals if they need it. Along with Intermountain Medical Center, the region’s only other Level 1 trauma center, we receive the most serious injuries from across the state, which can be both a blessing and a curse on this weekend.
Since that first Easter weekend, I’ve come ready for subsequent Easter weekends. I’ve had my running shoes on, my energy bars in my pockets, ready to be on my feet all day and handle whatever came my way. I’ve had days where I’ve barely been able to leave the trauma rooms to try to catch up with the other patients in our ER. It’s an exciting weekend, but certainly draining.
Which is why I won’t mind sitting out this Easter weekend. By some stroke of luck, I wasn’t assigned a shift over that weekend. Maybe some of the newer doctors volunteered to work, thinking that things would be nice and quiet as everyone left town for the holiday weekend.
They will learn.