Occupy Wall Street Medical Center

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By Christopher Robbins:

"As protesters in Zuccotti Park begin to settle in and set up more permanent structures, one of the first to boast the amenities of a military-grade tent with wooden flooring is the medical tent. Though the sign over the tent reads "Basic First Aid," it's open 24 hours and staffed by a rotation of several dozen medical professionals, including ER physicians, general practitioners, and registered nurses. The facility seeks to provide free care for protesters suffering everything from cuts and colds to the mental health issues that come with sleep deprivation and life in a public park in Lower Manhattan.

Those who aren't trained medical professionals are considered "street medics," and may have some CPR or first aid training. "Everyone works to their own qualifications," 25-year-old street medic Miriam Rocek says. "I treated a broken leg last week by calling 911." One MD who lives in Manhattan, works at Woodhull Hospital and asked to have their name withheld said that the more serious injuries that have cropped up—an appendicitis, a hernia, a drug overdose—have been referred to hospitals.

Another man, who cut off a large portion of his thumb after being bumped while holding a saw, was also sent away in an ambulance. And while over-the-counter medication is available, the doctors say they aren't writing any prescriptions. But a man who received a cut while building a structure received stitches in the tent from one of the nurses. We're currently awaiting comment from the New York City Department of Health on the legality and safety of licensed medical professionals practicing in Zuccotti Park.

Pauly Kostora, a LPN from New Mexico who has been in Zuccotti Park since the second week, said that protesters will also have access to mental heath professionals and counselors. "The distress of sleeping on the street and experiencing sleep deprivation can lead to a whole series of medical issues."

As winter approaches, the medical team is focusing on recognizing the signs of hypothermia, and making sure emergency blankets and handwarmers are available, as well as ensuring that people aren't staying alone in their tents. During our visit, protesters also asked for "fire cider," a brew of cayenne pepper, ginger, garlic and apple cider vinegar that purports to give demonstrators a sense of warmth in their stomachs." (http://gothamist.com/2011/11/08/inside_occupy_wall_streets_new_24-h)