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Mass. Hospital Seeks Spike After Snow

QUINCY - There's a good reason why experts call the type of snow - wet and heavy - that blanketed much of the local area "heart attack snow." Hospital emergency rooms were prepared to see a spike in visits once people began digging out.

Back problems, heart-attack symptoms and slip-and-fall accidents are common after every major snowstorm. The heaviness of the snow that fell Wednesday was expected to contribute to the number of shoveling injuries. Before the storm hit, South Shore Hospital spokeswoman Sarah Darcy asked the hospital's emergency department director whether she was ready. Darcy said she was told that "(Wednesday's) not the problem; Thursday's the problem."

The hospital always plans for a spike in visits the day after any snowfall, regardless of how light or heavy the snow is. Farther south, at Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, Dr. Michael Hall of the emergency department said ambulance traffic picks up the day after a storm. "We do some chest pain that occurs from shoveling heavy snow," Hall said. "We see a lot of back strains and muscle strains. Almost daily we'll see snow blower injuries."

After a typical storm, the hospital sees one or two people who accidentally stuck fingers or hands into a snowblower's moving parts, Hall said. People who do not regularly exercise should be especially cautious about shoveling driveways and sidewalks, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Backs, shoulders and arm muscles may not be prepared for the rigorousness of shoveling, which also can put significant strain on the heart. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency warns that just a half-inch of wet snow can snap tree limbs and bring down power lines - as it did across the South Shore on Wednesday.

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