A Fateful Leap

[Video content via The Columbus Dispatch]

During the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2015 a young man was pulled from Mirror Lake in cardiac arrest during the annual jump at The Ohio State University. Soon afterward, university administration called for an end to the tradition. In recent years, the university has observed with greater vigilance the detrimental health effects of jumping into a pond in late November.

After the untimely death of one of the participants, Austin Singletary, a third-year student majoring in human nutrition, the student government coalesced with university administration to take proactive steps to put an end the tradition.

On Wednesday, The Ohio State student government voted on Resolution 48-R-21: A Resolution to Advocate for Student Safety by Ending the Mirror Lake Jump. The resolution passed 35-6 with 6 abstaining, according to a report in the student-run newspaper, The Lantern.

The university has attempted to quell the Mirror Lake jump since 2012 by imposing greater control over the event. That year was the first year the university required participants and spectators to wear wristbands. The university also erected a gate around the lake in an effort to prevent any premature jumping. The gate, however, was overrun by students taking place in a Monday jump, without wristbands, in 2013. Only those students with wristbands were permitted near the lake. Each subsequent year students were required to have wristbands.

The wristbands initiative have largely failed to stave off participants. According a previous report in The Columbus Dispatch, roughly 10,000 students continued to engage in the jump every year since 2012. In a separate report in The Lantern, 2014 saw 14,000 participants in the Mirror Lake jump.

At the Mirror Lake Jump a number first responders are on hand should a medical emergency transpire. In all, The Ohio State University Police, Columbus Police, Columbus Fire and Medics, as well as a dive team from Columbus Police are present to monitor the activity. Additionally, there is an increased presence of security personnel at the Abercrombie & Fitch Emergency Department at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center—Columbus and OSU police are present  to provide additional aid due to the influx of individuals presenting in need of medical attention.

Every student that participates in the jump that requires medical attention is sent the Abercrombie and Fitch Emergency Department at the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University.

Emergency Department at University Hospital

Typically, participants that require medical attention are for relatively benign afflictions—issues raging anywhere from bumps and bruises to small lacerations. With the amount of participants presenting though, the emergency department becomes significantly inundated, which results in an overcrowding issue.

According to Michelle Ross, a nurse at the medical center, great efforts are made for this one night. Extra staff is taken on with nurses and healthcare providers in addition to the beefed of security presence.

Ohio State University Emergency Depart Trauma Bay

Ohio State University Emergency Department Trauma Bay

The emergency department prepares for the added number of patients from the event by keeping two of the trauma bays empty so that multiple patients can be seen in these rooms so as to expedite service for less severe patients–a phenomenon known as double stacking.

There are those patients that do present to the emergency department with significant medical issues—ranging anywhere from acute alcohol intoxication to serious hypothermia.

Patients who present with hypothermia are of the greatest risk. Participants immersed in water just above the freezing point for approximately two minutes will begin to experience reduced dexterity and confusion. Should a participant remain in the water for around 15 minutes, loss of consciousness is likely to occur, according to Ross. Furthermore, alcohol consumption can exacerbate these scenarios significantly. The dive team from Columbus Police perform crowd control in an attempt to limit participants in the water for no more than eight minutes at a time.

To treat the more extreme cases of hypothermia the university institutes rapid warming, which involves giving a patient warmed intravenous fluids. In the most extreme scenario, there are even machines that treat patients by filtering one’s blood and warming concurrently.

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