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Southern Illinois Trauma Center at Memorial Sees More Falls, Motor Vehicle Accidents in Winter Months


While the Southern Illinois Trauma Center typically sees fewer patients in the winter, its surgeons see many patients who suffer head injuries and fractures from falls, which can be life-threatening ordeals for some patients.

“For people who are on a lot of medications, particularly blood thinners, a small fall can cause a major injury,” said Dr. John Sutyak, medical director of the Southern Illinois Trauma Center, based at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. “And they need just as aggressive and rapid care as someone who’s been involved in a motor vehicle crash.”

Those falls aren’t limited to icy streets and sidewalks. Many are often inside the home. Motor vehicle accidents are also common in the winter.

“However, some of those are at slower speeds because people are trying to be much more careful on the roads,” said Sutyak, who has served as the Southern Illinois Trauma Center’s medical director for 10 years and has practiced medicine in Springfield for 14 years.

When the weather warms up, that’s when the recreational vehicle accidents, including ATVs and motorcycles, become more common, Sutyak said. Other common trauma injuries during warmer weather include agricultural and industrial accidents.

Because the Southern Illinois Trauma Center serves a primarily rural area, its surgeons and staff members see more accidents and “much less violence” than Chicago and other large cities, Sutyak said.

A partnership between Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and Memorial Medical Center, the Southern Illinois Trauma Center serves Springfield and an 18-county service region in central Illinois.

“A Level 1 trauma center is designated to accept the patients with the worst injuries, the most complex ones,” Sutyak said. “Our goal is to return them to the best possible life after their injury.”

The Southern Illinois Trauma Center, which received its designation from the Illinois Department of Public Health, has been serving the region since 1999. The trauma center’s staff includes five trauma surgeons and six registered nurses who provide around-the-clock care. They work with a team of specialists from SIU HealthCare, Springfield Clinic and the Orthopedic Center of Illinois as well as the Memorial Medical Center Emergency Department. They include neurosurgeons, ophthalmologists, orthopedic surgeons, oral surgeons, otolaryngologists and plastic surgeons.

Last year, about 1,400 patients were treated by the Southern Illinois Trauma Center team.