As the Red Sox season comes to a close, baseball junkies are tallying strikeouts and Big Papi’s home runs. Here’s a stat you don’t hear about: Behind the scenes at Fenway Park, nurses and doctors treated nearly 3,000 fans for medical complaints.
The first-aid team at Fenway hails from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which donates staff time to treat fans as part of a broader marketing agreement with the Red Sox. Since the hospital started providing the service in 2003, baseball duty has become part of the required training for residents and attending doctors.
Some of the injuries this season were dramatic. Two women were hit in the face, one by a piece of a bat and the other by a foul ball, adding fire to a national debate over whether Major League Baseball needs to do more to protect fans. More often, they were mundane — like the one Shamus Hayes tended to one recent evening.
Hayes, an emergency department nurse at Beth Israel, took his place last Thursday atop the Green Monster with emergency department technician Josh Silva.
Two other medical teams were on duty, stationed in the grandstands and at the first-aid base, a small private room inside the ballpark’s concourse.
Just before the game started, Hayes and Silva received a call on their radios: “13 Base to 13 Monster.” (For some reason unbeknownst to the medical team, all three medical crews go by the unlucky number 13.)
The directive bore little information: Just head to Section 27.
Hayes, 51, grabbed a backpack full of first-aid supplies and ran to the seating section. There, an usher reported the problem: A tourist was feeling faint. The usher had pulled her aside, offered her a chair, and given her a bottle of water.
Hayes felt the woman’s pulse. Her blood pressure was OK. The woman, visiting from Colorado, declined to go to the first-aid station; she said she was doing fine.
Hayes agreed, and escorted her to her seat before the game began.
Neither Beth Israel nor the Red Sox would disclose the terms of the marketing agreement that lets Beth Israel declare itself the “Official Hospital of the Boston Red Sox” in exchange for staffing the first-aid station. But it’s worth noting that when players are injured, they don’t necessarily go to Beth Israel Deaconess. In fact, the team’s medical director and several other team doctors work for a competitor — Massachusetts General Hospital.
Beth Israel Deaconess provides a half-dozen staff members for every home game, pulling from a pool of 70 nurses, doctors, and technicians.
Overheating and dehydration are their most common calls, according to Hayes, who worked about a quarter of the Red Sox’s 81 home games this year. But there’s quite a variety, from stubbed toes to hypoglycemia to heart attacks. The first-aid crew treats about 30 fans per game.
“You’d think we’d be taking care of drunks, but it’s a lot more than that,” said nurse Cyndi Casey, who has been staffing Fenway games since 2005.
Calls tend to peak in the summer heat. On a chilly fall evening, as the Sox neared the end of a dismal season, there were lots of empty seats and barely any medical requests.
The downtime gives staff the chance to get to know each other — something they never have time to do in the emergency room, said Hayes, perched atop the Green Monster during the sleepy third inning.
It wasn’t a bad place to be: “The view is great,” he said. He added that he enjoyed the fresh breeze, another perk of the job.
The evening went slowly: The first-aid station treated a 3-year-old who had shoved a cashew up her nose. And a woman showed up suffering from a case of “bad shoe choice,” said nurse Dan Nadworny, who runs the hospital’s Fenway first-aid squad. He gave her a Band-Aid for a blister.
Another visitor stopped by just to say thank you. Joe Brill of Quincy had a heart attack during a Yankees-Red Sox game two years ago.
“These guys saved my life,” he said. Now every time he goes to a baseball stadium, he makes sure to thank the medical team.
By the seventh-inning stretch last Thursday, no serious injuries had occurred.
“It’s been quiet,” remarked a visitor.
“Don’t say the ‘Q’ word!” warned nurse Casey.
Just then a report came in about a possible seizure. Hayes and two Fenway EMTs rushed to the location, placed a young woman on a stretcher, and ushered her down an elevator to the first-aid base. The woman turned out to be fine.
Casey, a diehard Red Sox fan, said she loves the chance to help the wide range of people at the stadium, including little kids who, in their excitement, trip on the concrete and skin their knees.
The hardest part of the job? Tearing people away from the baseball game to seek medical care.
“People don’t mind that they have bloody knees and a bloody head,” she said. They plead with her: “Just get me back in the park.”
Quest to rescue Prouty Garden fails
A last-ditch effort has failed to sway the state’s environmental agency to rescue Prouty Garden.
The agency will allow Boston Children’s Hospital to demolish the historic garden this spring to make way for a new 11-story clinical building.
Friends of the Prouty Garden had asked the state’s top environmental official to intervene, arguing that the hospital’s plan to create indoor and outdoor green spaces doesn’t live up to the “spirit” of the refuge.
Those concerns have already been aired in public hearings and don’t warrant another review, Deirdre Buckley, the state’s assistant secretary of energy and environmental affairs, wrote to the Friends group this month.
She also found that the hospital did not conceal information during the approval process, as the Friends had charged.
The attorney general’s office is still reviewing a separate request to intervene.