5 December, 2001
Dec 5th- McMurdo General Hospital
Today I had a minor mishap. I was outside the Jamesway shoveling out poles that were under snow. The shovel didn't work for breaking up the ice that coated these poles. So, I decided to go inside and get an ice axe. On the way in, I slipped on the ice and fell on my elbow. It hurt! I figured I hadn't broken it, so I went back to my job trying to avoid putting too much pressure on the arm.
After I finished, I went back into the Jamesway. This was when my elbow started to throb. I tried to grin and bear it for a while, but after lunch Doug suggested that I go to the medical center in McMurdo.
At McMurdo General Hospital, a Physician's Assistant named Kristin Peterson examined me. She didn't think I had a fracture, but wanted me to have x-rays just incase. As I waited to be x-rayed, I had a chance to glance around. One might not expect to see a hospital in Antarctica. However, with 1,000 people here, it is quite necessary. The staff is kept busy.
People come in for all sorts of ailments-just like at home. There are some things that the hospital can't deal with though. For example, when the TEA teacher Jan French broke her ankle last month, she was sent back to Christchurch because she needed surgery. Recently, a person stationed at the South Pole had a serious stomach problem and was also sent back.
During the Antarctic summer, a medevac (medical evacuation) can be done. It is a different story during the polar winter however. The fuel for the planes turns to gel at around -56 degrees F. This makes it virtually impossible to fly when it gets this cold. . Winter temperatures at the South Pole are often colder than -100 degrees F! Other problems that make it dangerous for pilots to fly are bad winds and storms. Poor visibility can be life threatening. Even in the middle of the Antarctic summer bad weather can ground all planes.
When someone is sent back to NZ for a medical emergency, a flight nurse accompanies that person. The flight nurse for McMurdo is Amy Beebe. She was the nurse who helped Jan on her emergency flight back to Christchurch. Amy's job is to take care of her patients while in flight. This means checking their vital signs, making sure that they are as comfortable as possible, etc. When she arrives in Christchurch, she stays with her patients until they are under medical care from the NZ doctors. Then she hops back on the plane and heads south again. What a job!
The results of the x-rays showed that I did not have a fracture. Thank goodness! I was given lots of ice, some pain relievers and sent on my way. It must have looked pretty funny-me, walking out into the Antarctic cold, with a big bag of ice!
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