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Winter Has Passed, But It Left Some Scars...

Mild winters have left New Englanders with a false sense of security about the dangers of snow... this year we had a big dose of reality.

With five major snowstorms having blown through the area this past winter, dumping more than six feet of snow, we’ve all experienced the treacheries of the winter weather this year. 

For Kathy Paige, the inundation of snow has meant more than a month with her arm in a sling after a nasty slip outside of Davis Square.

“I was walking out by the traffic office in Somerville and they had plowed Simpson right to the end of the park and then left a big pile of snow in front of the sidewalk, and people had tromped through it so it was all uneven and I just lost my balance and fell. I broke by arm and my shoulder,” she explained. 

The fall, due to a snowy, un-shoveled sidewalk, has greatly impacted her; and the repercussions of the winter injury, have now carried over to the spring.

 “I still have no strength in that arm and people have had to help me with really basic things like getting dressed, and I still can’t drive,” she said.

Luckily for Paige, she can walk to the dentist’s office in Somerville where she works.

 Though Somerville Hospital doesn’t track the types or number of injuries it sees from winter to winter, Ralph Upchurch, the Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital said slips and falls, which most commonly happen closest to a fresh snowfall, are very common.

But Upchurch, with 17 years of experience as the Chief of Emergency Medicine at the hospital, said the most common injuries he sees in the winter involve cars. 

“People never seem to learn the lessons about driving in the snow. They still drive too fast, and drive very similarly to what they would if roads were dry,” he said. “Motor vehicle accidents being the largest number of injuries, that’s also the area that would benefit the most from caution, I would think.”

The typical scenario he explained is a slow moving, or stationary motor vehicle struck from behind by another car, resulting in neck and low back pain for the passengers.

Also common in a city with such a “vibrant commuter cycling” and pedestrian community are “both falls and cyclists being struck by cars, related to the road conditions” Upchurch said. Particularly when large snow banks result in narrow roads.

Aside from the typical injuries, Upchurch said there are a handful of more obscure injuries that they see pass through the Emergency Department each year: mangled hands from people reaching into a clogged snow blower; frost bite, frost nip, hypothermia; and fires and burns from space heaters.

Resident, Annie Silverman, who sustained one of the more common injuries last year, according to Upchurch---a broken wrist---said the experience led her to be much more careful in this year’s wintry conditions. 

“I bought something more heavy duty than YakTrax to put on my shoes that has square cleats and I wear those now,” said Silverman. “Also, this year I was really fastidious about putting down grit and snow remover on not just my sidewalk but also at the ends of my neighbor’s driveways and part of their sidewalks too. I get up early so I’d just take care of it for everyone, so if somebody was walking early they wouldn’t slip. I was the grit and snow removal fairy for the neighborhood.”

Silverman in a sense was repaying neighbors for help they gave her the year before. Unable to drive or carry out basic tasks, neighbors stepped in to help. 

“I broke my left wrist, and I’m a righty, but still there’s so many things you need two hands for,” said Silverman. “People were very kind to me. My neighbors shoveled my snow, people did my shopping...people helped take my dog out. Putting dog poop in a poop bag one-handed is really hard.” 

One neighbor, a lawyer, urged Silverman to sue the homeowners responsible for the sidewalk where she slipped. “I didn’t want to do that. But I did go back in the spring and told them what had happened and told them they should be really careful.”

Mimi Graney March 29, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Any word on which block in the City won the best shoveled sidewalk award?
Christopher Treacy March 29, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Not sure, Mimi - but I'll ask around and get back to you!
Nicole Rioles March 29, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Glad you asked about the Best Shoveled Block winner! There are 12 contenders for the BSB contest and the winner will be announced very soon! We will share an announcement in the next 24 hours about where and when we will be celebrating the winner and honorable mentions.

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