April 17, 2013: A fire and massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas prompted widespread evacuations. Patients streamed into area hospitals suffering from blast injuries, orthopedic injuries and lacerations.
Crisis responders at the scene are concerned about anhydrous ammonia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anhydrous ammonia is a pungent gas with suffocating fumes that is used as a fertilizer. When exposed to humans, it can cause serious problems.
The West blast exemplifies why trauma dollars are crucial. Physicians and hospitals were able to be ready for blast victims through coordination with the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.
In all, 284 doctors, nurses and other caregivers answered the call for reinforcements at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center following the West, Texas explosion.
At Hillcrest, 28 patients remained hospitalized the following day, five of whom were in intensive care. Victims continued to trickle in during the day for treatment, including patients at Waco’s other hospital, Providence Health Center, where 68 patients had been seen.
Doctors had treated mostly skin and soft tissue injuries, lung contusions, bruising, eye injuries from flying debris and burst eardrums. No chemical-related injuries had been noted. Other trauma surgeons were overwhelmed by the professionalism of other caregivers and staffers during a hectic night and described it as “controlled chaos.”
The types of injuries generally seen in blasts include traumatic brain injuries, skull fractures, ruptured eyes, internal bruising to the lung or other internal organs. There is also the potential for broken arms and legs when people are flung through the air by a blast.
The fertilizer plant explosion in West,Texas has forced area hospitals to ramp up their crisis management plans.
Officials at several of the hospitals lauded the preparedness of their staff members. Raj Gandhi, MD, medical director of trauma services at JPS Health Network, said the area’s regional trauma plan have helped save lives.