Our station trains for Mass Casualty Incidences (MCI) in case there is such an emergency. The training is limited and there is one drill per summer. If you remember from earlier posts that I was to be part of it more that I liked but we were rather short of practitioners. I was at the South Pole during the MCI drill that was performed in December, so I missed it anyway. But little did we know that we’d have a real one, albeit a small one. A Korean fishing vessel in the Ross Sea caught fire and there were 7 injured, some with significant burns. A distress signal was sent and a sister ship arrived to rescue them from their burning boat. Since they were in need of medical assistance and we were closest and the best source of transportation to the hospitals in Christchurch, the powers that be in New Zealand asked for our assistance. The rescue would be nearly impossible from the other fishing vessels and they weren’t built to break through ice, so a US research vessel in the area, was contacted and asked to assist. This vessel was on its way to McMurdo, but not due to arrive for a while. It headed to the fishing vessels and recovered the men where they were treated by 2 newly minted EMT’s that were on board. Sounds like they did an excellent job though. This ship cut through the ice and got as close as they could. After about 20 hours, they were ready to arrive here. My friend, Janet, who is the flight nurse, was part of the crew that went out to pick them up. She flew out on a helicopter which they landed on the ice next to the research vessel. How cool is that?! She wasn’t fazed until I reminded her of how cool that really was. The men were escorted off in various ways and they flew them to the station, transported them by vehicle to us at the hospital. We treated them in the clinic for about 2 hours, mostly IV’s, meds and bandage changes (I got to help!) and they were transported to the airfield for an 8 hour flight to Christchurch. Yeesh! What a long journey for these men. The last I heard they were all doing well. It was great to see how it all came together. And, huh, I forgot how much I liked wound care. I certainly never dealt with acute traumas like that but it was strangely fun. By afternoon I was back to treating my patients with tendinitis and back spasms. Not that I mind. Oh, well. Until the next time.
I’ve loaded some pictures of hikes I’ve taken lately. Observation Hill (Ob Hill) is right here in town. It takes about 30 minutes for me to make it to the top. It should be something I do all the time, but nope. Done it once. I hiked Castle Rock with some friends this past Sunday. That was much longer at about 5 hours. It was a beautiful day to be outside…about 40F and sunny. And what a great view from the top. I say out loud, “I’m in Antarctica” (or “We’re…) every once in a while just to remind myself. I don’t want to get complacent about being here. Who would’ve thought I’d make it here? Crazy.
Speaking of crazy, you also see pictures in the Shutterfly account of the Mustache Roullette. I guess this is a national event for raising money for prostate cancer. I didn’t get the entire story, but I think it was supposed to be in November but it’s a little too busy with other activities here. So it just occurred they past weekend. Here’s the long and short of it….they try to get 25 bearded guys to enter, they are divided into 5 rounds dividing each into a “weight class” based on the thickness and/or length of their beard. Now let me just take a moment to explain the beardedness of the men here. This is an area of pride, especially for the men who “winter over”. To reach the end of the winter season (August) with an impressive growth of facial hair, puts a man on the higher social ranking. Now for the summer season (remember that’s right now for us), it carries less clout, but is still worthy of respect. But back to the event….so the lightweight round is first. There are about 8 buckets in the front of the room each with a picture of a shaving on it, with creative names on each. The crowd is to go up, put a dollar in the bucket of their favorite. The top 4 are chosen. Then there sits the electic razor in the middle of the table of men. The razor is spun and whomever it points to gets the selected shave. One man “survives” the round. Each round is played and then the “survivors” of each round play a final round until there was only 1 beard standing. Now this is McMurdo so the choices of shavings are creative often with classless names. I’ll just say this…the emcee of the event, who had an impressive “winter-over” looking beard, ended up with one titled the “Good Morning”. It was a 3-part, male genitalia shaped mustache. I couldn’t tell if it had an appropriately enlarged prostate.
This week has been pretty quiet. The talk has turned to where we will all travel and what we will do “off Ice”. It’s hard to believe I have a little over 3 weeks to go!!! It makes me a little sad to think I will have to cook my own meals and put gas in my car again. I certainly understand the draw of returning here. Even though it’s hard work, it is easy living. Live hard, play hard, I suppose. I don’t think I will return here, but I’ve heard “that’s what they all say.” Hmm. We’ll see. The company that has hired us does not have the contract next year. Lockheed Martin will be taking on that challenge. The University of Texas will be the subcontractor that will be running the medical portion. I’m not sure, but I’d think they’d want their own people here. We’ll see. I may put in my application anyway, just to see.
I’m planning to travel to New Zealand and am starting to gather some ideas on where to go. I hadn’t planned for this ahead of time, then became pretty immersed in the activities here, so now I’m cramming on what to do. It’s a little difficult to plan to travel with buddies, because we all leave the Ice at different times and we don’t have any control over it. For example, I’m due to fly out February 13th and some other friends fly out on the 20th. So I may be doing some solo travel, at least in the beginning. Who knows? But it’ll all work out. Enjoy the pic’s…next post…more info on the station.