The other day there was a remote trauma course going on near my house, and being on holiday with nothing to do until August I went along. A remote trauma course is a two-day pumped-up first aid course teaching you how to try to manage (and you can only try to manage, out there) a serious injury when your a million miles from anywhere using only the kit you’ve bought in your bag. In this case, it was focused on cold, or not-much-more specifically, cold. I’m talking -70 degrees, with a wind chill taking it to over -150 Celsius. As you can imagine this presents a few unique problems including that a lot of the stuff that typical first aid needs is useless at that kind of temperature: foam splints shatter, bandages freeze into a solid lump, and exposed flesh begins to freeze in under a minute.
I was one of two doctors there (do you know how weird that feels to write?!), out of ten or so people. It’s important to bear in mind that I have been a doctor for less than a month, have never worked as one, and that both of these things were known to the people at the course. What was weird is the way that they treated me with respect – respect I hadn’t earned, and given just because of a single changed letter in the title of my name. Even the guy running the course would stop and ask me questions about things, what my technique for something was, despite the fact that I had no idea how to get an unconscious casualty out of an upturned landrover (yes, they had an upturned, smashed-up landrover! talk about proper scenarios!) or create a spinal collar out of a piece of splinted foam. At one point, someone wrote down something I said.
I carefully rationed what I said after that. I guess it actually started long ago, this fusion of who-I-am and what-I-do, but now it’s got a title it’s far more potent than it was before. I also got something of a flash-forward to starting my job, and the
endless terror responsibilities that will heap upon me. People with vastly more life experience than I will actually listen to me (horrifyingly, this also includes nurses with 30 years of experience, who probably know what’s best for a patient better than I do).
On the plus side, a guy and I got to try and get an ‘unconscious’ casualty out of an upturned land rover, all the while keeping his neck still and wearing clothes that would be suited for -70. Let me tell you, trying to even talk to someone when both you and he are wearing a skidoo helmet is difficult, let alone trying to see exactly what’s going on when your breath is fogging up your visor (that you can’t put up because your eyes would freeze). Getting the casualty out (he was a real guy) was pretty difficult but you know what? Once he was out and we’d dragged him to the ‘warm’ tent, I knew what I was doing. Perhaps I am vaguely ready, after all.