Winnipeg emergency rooms see surge in injuries from icy conditions

Winnipeg emergency rooms see surge in injuries from icy conditions

Laurie Wilson-Czyrnyj did not expect to be heading into her retirement immobile with her ankle in a cast after emergency surgery.

The 58-year-old slipped on the ice getting out of her car on March 6 outside her Charleswood home.

"I saw ice, I stepped on the ice because I've stepped on it 100 times, like a chunk of ice sort of thing, and I went down," Wilson-Czyrnyj said.

"When my foot stuck, it twisted. I saw it. I could barely look at it, it made me sick. My foot was at a ninety-degree angle from my leg."

At least 40 other people were rushed to emergency rooms from falling on ice that same day. However, after freezing rain turned pavement into skating rinks in Winnipeg last Friday, that number skyrocketed.

Emergency rooms saw two to three times the usual amount of slip and fall injuries over the weekend, said Dr. Peter MacDonald, the head of orthopedics for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. On Friday, 109 people showed up at emergency departments with ice-related injuries and another 130 turned up on Saturday.

MacDonald said of those, 60 people required emergency surgeries — a 50 per cent increase.

"Obviously the weather had something to do with this, and the ice," he said.

The weekend before, there were 41 in total.

"It certainly puts a burden on the system when something like this happens," MacDonald said.

"It would be very busy for the hospital staff, very busy for physicians, busy for the emergency department. It also takes its toll on beds and so it tends to clog the beds up," he added.

MacDonald said he's been around long enough to see the toll of icy streets, but a weekend that busy is certainly unusual.

The three most common injuries to come from icy streets are wrist fractures, ankle injuries and hip fractures, particularly with seniors, MacDonald said.

'I wasn't careful enough'

Wilson-Czyrnyj didn't end up breaking any bones but her orthopedic surgeon said there were no longer any ligaments to hold her ankle in place.

"He said, 'Obliterated. There's nothing left. There are no ligaments, there's nothing left to hold this ankle together,'" she said.

That meant she needed emergency surgery. Now, she's going to be in a cast for about four months.

Thinking back before the fall, Wilson-Czyrnyj said she had the attitude that "sure it's icy, but it's winter, what do you expect?"

"I think part of my attitude [is] why I fell. I wasn't careful enough," she said.

WRHA said falls can pose a serious problem, but they can also be prevented.

Some tips from WRHA include:

- Wear good-fitting footwear with non-slip soles

- Consider wearing snow cleats or ice grippers when walking in winter weather conditions

- Be aware of your surroundings

- Pay attention to cracks in the sidewalks, potholes, ice and s now

- Keep walkways and steps clear of ice and snow

- Report ice or hazardous conditions to 311

- When weather conditions are risky, consider cancelling unnecessary appointments and stay indoors