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Article updated: 7/14/2011 5:01 AM

Power outage swamps suburban ERs

By Jamie Sotonoff

Storm-related injuries have packed suburban emergency rooms this week, as people seek treatment for problems like tree branch cuts, overexertion and carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.

"The ER is absolutely swamped," said Mike Deering, spokesman for Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, who said they've seen a 20 to 25 percent increase in patients in the emergency room so far this week.

It's the same story at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. Nurse Jody Jesse, director of the emergency department, estimates their traffic is up 25 percent in the past two days because of the storm.

They've had at least two car accidents related to traffic signals being out, one chain saw injury from someone trying to remove a fallen tree, and "several" carbon monoxide poisonings from generators, she said. Gas-powered portable generators should not be placed indoors, emergency workers say.

On Wednesday, 169-bed Good Shepherd was near capacity, in part because doctors won't release patients to homes with no power if their care requires an electric-powered device. Parts of the Barrington area, and many other neighborhoods in Lake County, remain without power following Monday's storm, and ComEd says it might take until Saturday to restore electricity to the area.

Good Shepherd's senior service line also has been inundated with calls this week, with seniors needing help and wanting to know how to get ComEd to prioritize their restoration, Deering said.

Until the heat wave broke Tuesday night, people with chronic respiratory issues were coming in for care or simply taking advantage of their air-conditioning, suburban hospital officials said.

Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge said their emergency room traffic hasn't increased, but they've had several people come in because they use electric-powered oxygen or dialysis machines and didn't have battery backups, spokeswoman Camille Zicino said.

Even outside the hospital, it's been a challenge to care for the sick without electricity. Sandy Gura's 91-year-old aunt is in hospice care at her house in unincorporated Lake Zurich, and family members had to plug her inflatable hospital bed into a generator so they can turn her and clean her. Gura's been vigilant about keeping the house cool, while pleading with ComEd to get them back online.

"When you tell me two more days, 100 degrees, and I'm caring for someone who's dying, I'm getting a little testy," she said. "I'm not a whiner, but you should be able to get someone to respond to you."

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