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​Blacking out

Amy M. Klingler, MS, PA-C

This summer, I have spent a lot of time thinking about blacking out. But rather than syncope or substance abuse, I have been thinking about the total eclipse of the sun. On August 21, in many communities across the country, including mine, the moon will cross in front of the sun. Stanley, Idaho, is almost exactly in the center of the path of totality, where duration of darkness will last the greatest amount of time. For 2 minutes and 13 seconds, starting at 11:28:18 a.m., the skies will go dark, stars will twinkle, the temperature will drop, and crickets will (allegedly) start chirping. As a result of this unique experience, my town of roughly 200 year-round residents is expected to swell to 20,000 people on the days surrounding the eclipse. Normally, visitors to our area are a self-selected group of recreationalists who are used to hiking, biking, boating, climbing, and fishing. During the eclipse week, however, we are expecting tourists of all nationalities, ages, and fitness levels to descend on our area to bear witness to this astronomical phenomenon.

While I have been wondering where all of these people will poop, pee, and dispose of their trash, I have been planning for how to provide their medical care. I have recruited additional paid and volunteer staff, expanded clinic hours, and created an incident management plan for our emergency services. Based on my research and consulting with other clinicians who have experienced a total or partial eclipse, I am preparing to treat the standard urgent care medical issues along with increased numbers of patients with dehydration, sunburns, musculoskeletal injuries, intoxication, the consequences of on- and off-road motor vehicle crashes, and the inevitable retinal burn.

Altitude illness often is a concern for people visiting Stanley, which is situated at an elevation of 6,300 ft. Although I don’t think of it as extreme elevation, patients often become symptomatic after traveling here. I was thrilled to read the article

Out of air: Is going to high altitude safe for your patient?
 in this month’s issue of
JAAPA. The article provides a great review of the effects of altitude on underlying medical conditions, the risk of patients with certain medical conditions for developing altitude illness, and prevention and treatment of altitude illness. I hope at least some of the stargazers will take the recommended precautions before heading this way to stand in the shadow of the moon.

Amy M. Klingler practices at the Salmon River Clinic in Stanley, Idaho. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and may not reflect AAPA policies.

Published: 8/21/2017 8:31:00 AM

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