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First Aid Team Leader Reflects on Opening of Another Season at Fenway Park

  • Date: 4/7/2010

Garry Dunster, RN, Lead Member of the BIDMC/Red Sox First Aid Team

Editor's Note: Sunday marked the start of another season of baseball at Fenway Park. As part of BIDMC's special relationship as the "Official Hospital of the Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Nation," staff from the BIDMC and BIDMC-Needham Emergency Departments serve as the First Aid Crew at all home games and special events. As a lead member of the BIDMC/Red Sox First Aid Team, we asked Garry Dunster, RN, to share his thoughts on what it's like to provide medical care at Fenway Park.

At the risk of being uncovered later as a heretic, I feel I should come clean at the beginning. I'm not really a big fan of the Red Sox, or baseball for that matter. I really don't know my "A-Rod" from my "K-Rod," my BK's from my BB's, ERA's from my #P/PA's…

I do, however, know how to work well in a medical team; to rapidly assess and treat minor and major injuries. I have the ability to keep calm and think rationally in all manner of medical crises in familiar and unfamiliar environments. That is the reason I choose to wear this shirt, this uniform, to join this partnership between BIDMC and the Boston Red Sox.

For the majority of the 39,000-plus spectators at each home game we barely exist. Many of them probably have never seen our First Aid room down in the bowels of Fenway Park under Section 13. Our location is announced by PA, we do have advertising boards around the park. But for most we exist in some "other" dimension, that doesn't infringe on their experience of the game.

This feeling of "otherness," existing outside of the consciousness of many, is accentuated by the dislocation between the sights and sounds within the First Aid room. You could be methodically cleaning an abrasion from a person who has fallen over, when a sudden roar engulfs the building - the floor and walls literally shake. The whole structure threatens to collapse under the wave of energy and sound cascading onto it.

If you look up at the television screen we use to keep track of the game, there is an image of calm. The opposing pitcher is setting up on the mound to pitch; casting a glance to check the runner on first; shooting a look of steel at the batter. As the roar from the outside begins to fade you see the pitch and the pure harmony of the moment when the intentions of the batter and pitcher collide, sending the ball sailing over the Green Monster for a home run, belatedly.

An Opening Day view from the BIDMC First Aid Station high atop the Green Monster at Fenway Park.

If your three innings in the First Aid room can leave you feeling removed from the game, your remaining innings on the Monster and in right field throw you into it way over your head. You are immersed in the sights, the delicious aromas and soundtrack of America's favorite game.

A game at Fenway Park is simply a fantasia for the senses; of tragedy and comedy, punk rock and opera, heights of passion and despair. You don't need to be a student of the game, or have the slightest interest in it to get swallowed up in the whole experience and get spit out at the end of the night, exhilarated.

Working for the First Aid team has an added edge, in the middle of all this drama, this soap opera; the radio can burst into life at any moment.

"13 Lead to 13 Roof … Respond to Field Box 9 for elderly male collapsed"

The jostle through the crowds of people, the uncertainty of what you will find, peering across a sea of heads trying to locate the incident scene, reigning back the adrenaline, rehearsing the First Aid mantras of ABC's and their responses in preparation for what you will find.

These are the moments when the existence and importance of our First Aid at Fenway Park become a reality for the spectator. This is why we work here.

During each game the numbers of people we see and the complaints they have can vary - from less than 20 people to more than 120. Complaints range from minor headaches and abrasions to severe, even life-threatening injuries. The majority of the people we see we will treat and return back to the game. For those with more serious complaints we will quickly transport to the most suitable hospital that their needs and age dictate. We are present at each home game, concert and special event such as "Fenway Futures," or the "Winter Classic" during the year. For each game we send a team of RN's, Techs and MD's who work in collaboration with the Fenway medical staff.

I feel it is a privilege to represent both BIDMC and the Red Sox each time that I pull on my shirt and step into the park. It is a unique opportunity to test and showcase the skills that BIDMC staff possess within the wider community it serves.

So next time you're at the park, cheering for another Sox home run, take a moment to think about the team down below Section 13, surrounded by the vibrating walls, heads turned to the Television screen to see what just transpired up in the lights of Fenway Park.

Be reassured that, in the very small probability that you are in need of medical assistance, you will have your own "Home Team" right beside you.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.