ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Dr. Brian Clemency and his team will be there. Just in case. But ultimately, the emergency physician says Bills fans attending Saturday night’s Wild Card matchup with New England will be their own first line of defense when the temperatures are in the single digits.
“We don’t want them to say, ‘Oh, I can go out in the cold. It’s okay. I can rely on the medical team to take care of me if I get cold,'” Clemency said. “We’re absolutely there if they need us. But people should make decisions based on their own ability to handle the cold temperatures on their own.”
Clemency, who works with UBMD, leads a team of physicians, PAs, NPs, residents, EMTs, and paramedics who operate two 7-bed emergency rooms inside Highmark Stadium. One is at the north end of the facility. One is at the south end.
“There really is no typical patient on gameday,” the doctor says.
“Our volume can be very variable from game-to-game. We see some games where we can see as low as 20 people and others where we can see up to 80 or more,” Clemency added.
With frostbite and hypothermia at the top of his mind, he admits they anticipate having more patients come through than usual on Saturday night due to the cold.
Clemency points out the fans most at risk for a cold emergency include the elderly, people with pre-existing medical conditions, fans who come to the game without enough clothing, and people who drink too much alcohol. He suggests fans feeling dizzy, confused, or shivering leave their seat and find a warm area. If after a few minutes those symptoms persist, you can ask guest services to help you find his emergency department.
“It all depends on how far along they are when they get to us. If they’re a little bit cold, we can hopefully rewarm them. If they are already to a certain state where their metabolism and their cardiovascular system are starting to change, that may be somebody who needs to go the hospital,” the doctor said.
Clemency’s team, Erie County, the Bills, and AMR work to create a plan for each and every Bills game at Highmark Stadium. This week, that plan is focused on the cold weather.
“When we’re thinking about cold emergencies, we want to make sure we have adequate ways to help reheat people,” he said. “We also want to make sure we’ve identified space where people can rest and warm up if they need to.”
Ironically, Clemency was in San Diego Friday morning to attend a medical conference. He’ll be boarding a plane and heading back to a frozen Western New York in time for kickoff Saturday.
Dawn Sylves is one of 70,000 fans who will be at the game. As a nurse, she may know how to protect herself better than most.
“A playoff game is a playoff game. It doesn’t matter,” Sylves said. She’s hoping the Bills put enough points on the scoreboard to keep her warm.
“Just be prepared to stand outside and cheer a lot,” she added. “The more you move, the warmer you stay.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.