From the OR to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

For one week-end every year in Montreal, cars race in a closed circuit at an average speed of 250km/h surrounded by a crowd of over 300,000 people. Major accidents are a high risk here, and that’s why having an on-site multidisciplinary medical team is crucial.
Every summer since 1993, Dr. Pierre Fiset, Head of the Anesthesia Department of the Montreal Children’s Hospital has been part of the medical team that follows the Montreal Grand Prix. He is one of the doctors in charge of a team that includes 90 volunteers.
Anesthetists, inhalation therapists, nurses and specialists work together with paramedics, firemen and rescue workers, all ready to intervene in case of an accident. Specialized medical teams are posted in strategic spots around the racetrack ready to be at the scene of an accident as soon as possible.
There’s a hospital on site with equipment for reanimation and a fully equipped operating room. In case of major injuries that require critical care, an on-site helicopter is ready to make the 7-minute trip to Sacré-Cœur Hospital.
“Pressure is intense, and organization has to be at its best,” says Fiset. “It’s a team work situation where everyone depends on someone else to accomplish their job. If a doctor needs to work on an injured driver, the rescue workers have to do their job first.”
Luckily, most of the time the team spends its days enjoying the sunshine. “But if something happens,” says Fiset, “the adrenaline kicks in and we work non-stop until we’re sure the injured are safe. Sometimes the race continues which adds stress to the intervention.”
Dr. Fiset has seen many accidents, the worst one being when driver Olivier Panis broke both legs after a crash. “Often times, we take care of the spectators who faint because of heat, dehydration or too much beer.”