On the traverse so far we have been spared medical problems of any kind. The most serious incident on the plateau was a sprained big toe after a descent down the ladder from the sleeping module, in bivouac boots and a little too swift.
Location: 79º 29’ S, 3º 36’ E
Weather: All clear, -31 C, wind 6 kts
If anything more serious was to happen, “doc” is well prepared to handle most contingencies. An unused bunk under the ceiling of the living module has been filled to the rim with medical equipment and supplies of all kinds. We have a combined heart starter and ECG, and equipment to monitor blood pressure, oxygenation and temperature; two pressure bags for altitude problems, rails and vacuum splints for any kind of fracture, equipment for light surgery; bandages, plaster and medicines for any acute condition, from easy pain-stilling to anaesthetics.
If something happens that requires hospitalization, we would have to request a med-evac by air to the South Pole or to Troll Station, and then off the continent to Christchurch or Cape Town. In Antarctica everybody will rally round when something serious happens, and if the weather and snow conditions are on our side, the patient should be in hospital within a couple of days. But since we probably are among those who are the furthest away from any of the planet’s hospitals or other medical resources, a doctor for just 12 persons has been considered an affordable luxury. The medical practitioner on the traverse is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until February 25, and there is no waiting time for consultations.
If anybody wonders what happens if the doctor becomes the patient, Lou – with her annual paramedic training – has already been appointed as assistant and replacement. On the way out we also spent a day at the South Pole to update everybody on first aid. Thus the doctor too should be in safe hands if anything happens.
Load handling requires care and precaution to avoid injuries. Photo: Stein Tronstad/NPI