Archive for October 25th, 2006

Retrieval

The main advantage of my current job, well not the main advantage, there are many, is that I get to do inter-hospital transfers. And no this has nothing to do with the Bosman ruling.

In NI I did a few transfers, but they were all very well people and they were all by ambulance, and if something would go wrong you could simply tell the ambulance to drive faster. It only takes about 18 mins to get from craigavon to the royal in an ambulance at 95mph.

Here the big hospitals are a fair distance away. Wellington is about 6-7 hours by ambulance up and down over mountains. The equivalent of dungannon from craigavon is a place called Wairoa which is about 2 ½ hrs away by road. Wairoa is truly in the sticks. Patients come from Wairoa with a ticked check list of medical conditions. Diabetes/heart disease/lung disease/morbid obesity (frequently greater than 150kg) and a legion of country yokel relatives with them too.

And they’re not great at ever taking their medication, and they’re all double-hard and tend not to visit a doctor till their leg is ready to drop off or they can’t reach another pie to their mouth without getting angina. Frequently they’ll have a heart attack in the peace and quiet of their own home and then drive in the next day cause they had to get the sheep in first. Yesterday there was a guy who got bucked off a horse and gave himself a really nasty (and potentially life-threatening) pelvic fracture (a near 10 cm pubic symphysis separation on x-ray!) and didn’t make it to us till the next day cause he couldn’t get anyone to drive him!

So this is my target audience so to speak. On Friday Im sitting in the tea room after lunch and Ted (my boss, I love it that he’s called Ted and i get to call him Ted too) asks me if I’d mind taking a wee flight to wairoa to retrieve an 84 year old with a pulse of 30 a minute (generally not a good speed that) and has probably had a big stroke too.

So I get all excited cause I get to go in a helicopter and then all scared because a patient with a pulse of 30 and a helicopter don’t mix well. I get my jump suit, which is designed to fit the 150kg patient instead of me I think. And most important of all I grab my camera, not to miss the opportunities of nice aerial photos on a sunny day.

I tried not to giggle and smile as the helicopter took off, that I actually get paid to do this. We fly from hastings to napier and I can see Mt Ruapehu in the centre of the island. I can see the marina and the apartments where I live and get a lovely shot of Napier and the port and the hill.

Dean, the pilot wearing a shiny, well-fitting red jump suit and sunnies, tries to scare the willies out of me by veering suddenly and diving. I smile to cover the fact that I’ve had the willies scared out of me.

Wairoa hospital reminds of a hospital I was in in South Africa, though that may be stretching it. The patient is a maori lady with grey hair and pig tails. Only Maoris (and south American natives) have pig-tails at 84. She has right sided neglect. With strokes you sometimes lose the knowledge that you have one side of your body and consequently ignore it completely.

We put her in the helicopter, which is a feat in itself. She’s trussed up in a blanket and a seat belt in a stretcher. Even if I wanted to do anything medically dramatic I wouldn’t be able to get at her to do it. Apparently the done thing is to just set the helicopter down and do whatever you need to do and then take off again. I have a heart monitor and I can see her wee spiky complexes of her heart beat on the screen. We take off and her heart stops for 3 seconds and then starts again. She does this all the way home till the helicopter lands again and then she stops. I mean she stops having the pauses, as opposed to her heart stopping altogether, as that would be most inconvenient.

I get back to the unit and I tell Ted that all went well and thankfully I didn’t have to do anything. Ted gives his knowing smile. He’s 64 and has been doing this for a long time, he’s allowed to give knowing smiles. And I realise that that�s why he sent me, cause it would be an easy one, and he’s breaking me in gently. Well either that or he wouldn’t trust me with anything more complicated cause he’s a bit suspicious that I’m a bit of a medical muppet. Couldn’t blame him really�

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