Expedition First Aid

Tanguy, Rhys and Jack went on a two day course with Marlin Training, hosted by the Imperial College Union. The Exploration Board kindly paid for the three of us to attend to build on the skills we learned in the first wilderness first aid course we did in January.

On Monday we started with a lovely lecture on diarrhoea from Dr Simon Green, a GP who was one of our two lecturers along with Stuart Marshall. After we all felt suitably queasy, we did some more practice with Automatic External Defibrillators, adding in oxygen from bottles to help care for victims of cardiac arrest. There were some excellent lectures on infectious diseases and animal attacks, all featuring maps of the world in which New Zealand began to appear increasingly benign.

We were shocked out of our complacency by the trauma session, examining exactly how badly things can go when a rock falls on you hundreds of metres underground. It's clear that we'll need to act promptly and effectively given that a cave makes even relatively minor injuries like a sprained ankle into a quite a challenge. We covered how to give injections with an orange as our human stand in - on the trip we'll be carrying anti-emetics (stops you vomitting) and local analgesics (for stitching) with us. We practiced suturing (stitching) up flesh wounds on chicken thighs with neat, scalpel inflicting incisions - probably a far cry from a trying to do it on an agonised victim in a dark cave, but the knots were hard enough without those extra complications.

Some excellent sessions on immobilising a patient with suspected neck injuries made me a lot more confident about dealing with this situation on our expedition, especially advice on fashioning impromptu neck braces out of SAM splints. Stuart surprised the class by stumbling in half way through a session, face bright red as he stumbled and collapsed to the floor. We gathered round and set to work, releaved to see the facepaint he was wearing. In no time he had a neck brace on, oxygen mask at the ready and about half the class miming phoning for help.

I really enjoyed the two days we spent on the course, and though I hope we'll never need the skills that we've learned, I feel a lot more confident and capable for having been taught them.

Jack Hare