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Long Island

Swimming, boating safely aims to avoid ‘trauma season’ injuries

On Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, health care professionals discussed saftey precautions the public should take during the summer months when trauma incidents such as boating and swimming accidents spike. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

As summer begins, so does “trauma season” — the time of year when the number of boating and swimming accidents and injuries jumps, trauma doctors and emergency room specialists at Nassau University Medical Center said Tuesday.

Long Islanders should take steps to avoid preventable swimming, boating and other summertime accidents that can lead to traumatic injuries, hospital staff said.

“Usually in the beginning of the summer, there’s at least one or two drownings before the word gets out,” said Paul Pipia, chief medical officer of NUMC, during a news conference Tuesday. “We want to try to be ahead of that curve.”

Traumatic injuries among children normally double in the summer months, and adult trauma cases also rise during the season, according to the East Meadow hospital, which is the closest Level 1 Trauma Center to Jones Beach.

Hospital doctors said factors including alcohol or drug use, low visibility, rough seas, bad weather conditions and speeding can make for the perfect storm on the water.

“Part of the problem is that there are inexperienced boaters,” said Dr. Livia Santiago, who specializes in emergency medicine. “You add to that they may be having a couple of beers before they get in the boat; you now have a recipe for disaster.”

Gina Lieneck, of Deer Park, knows how devastating a boating accident can be. Her 11-year-old daughter Brianna died in a boating accident in 2005 while returning from Fire Island,

“It’s been 12 years of hell and we don’t only have to get over the loss of our daughter, but we suffer every day with the injuries that we sustained from the boating accident,” she said during the news conference.

Lieneck suffers from encephalomalacia, which she described as trauma to the brain, and her husband still suffers from back and head injuries.

Lieneck has called for mandatory boat licensing and laws that require boaters to take a breath test when stopped by law enforcement.

She, along with Richard Werner of Safe Boating America, will host a boating safety day on July 22 at Nicky’s On the Bay restaurant in Bay Shore.

“You have to know what you’re doing to be out on the water,” said Lieneck. “You don’t want to make one little mistake and ruin somebody’s life forever.”

The hospital’s steps for a safe summer include:

  • Don’t leave a child unsupervised in or around a body of water.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before operating a boat.
  • If you do drink, make sure there is a designated driver.
  • Never swim or boat without a lifeguard or parental guardian present.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Always have a life jacket or some sort of flotation device.

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