The air here is thick and temperatures are warm. People are in t-shirts. It’s a veritable tropical paradise. The temps were, allegedly, in the POSITIVE 20s. Roughly 50s degrees separates where I started the day and where I ended it. I am in the beach front escape known as McMurdo. And I’ll be here until tomorrow morning. Potentially. Assuming the plane doesn’t have any mechanical failures. Which is why I have a night in McMurdo. Originally, I was scheduled to touch down in McMurdo and catch a flight back to South Pole about an hour later. But mechanic failures happen and so often delay air travel around these parts.
I’m at McMurdo because I can travel. The station doctor is pretty well leashed to the station, and understandably so. As the mid-level, I have the training to perform the tasks required, but not the overall responsibility for the health of the entire station that sits upon the shoulders of the doctor. There are perks to not being at the top of the medical food chain.
In the event of a disaster such as a plane crash, we have decided that I will travel out to the scene. I have a fair bit of field experience, so in that unlikely scenario, that is based on skillset. If someone is injured on station, I will go to the location, assess the patient and determine the extrication plan. The station doctor will be in the clinic waiting for the patient to turn up, preparing based on the information I relay. He will be the one to provide definitive medical care. I’ll help. In the event that a medevac flight originates from South Pole (vs originating in McMurdo and showing up to retrieve the patient with a crew of military medics, nurses and flight surgeons), I, as the more dispensable of the two of us, will most likely be the one travelling with the patient. I wish that I could say that, in the event of a medevac originating from South Pole, I would be the provider to care for the patient based on my expert medical abilities and overall kickassness, but it’s not. Sadly, it is quite the opposite. I’m trained enough that there is a reasonable expectation that I won’t kill anyone prematurely and the doctor can’t go, so I’m up. We cannot risk the health and wellbeing of the entire station for one or two patients. I spent a few years transporting patients in a 911 system, so I understand the realities of transport medicine vs ideal-in-the-hospital medicine. But that tidbit never came up in the decision making process.
So based on having a short-leashed doctor and a reasonable expectation that I won’t royally cock things up, I find myself in McMurdo. Breathing deeply. Wandering about in a long sleeve cotton shirt. Catching up with old friends from the winter who have returned, and a few who never left.
Somehow, against all odds and conventional wisdom, somewhere along the way, I’ve made good life decisions.
I’ve now, officially, been to the South Pole twice.