The Ship’s Doctor: Deannie and I spent the first 2 weeks of April rocking and bouncing around the Bay of Biscay and the Western Mediterranean. We joined the ship at Southampton and sailed at about 5.30pm. We had spent all day familiarising ourselves with the vessel and I was taking my first evening surgery when, at 6.30pm, in the restaurant, an 85 year old man vomited copiously and collapsed unconscious into his soup. I shot up there and, with help, recovered him to my hospital in the bows, where there is a doctor’s room, an examination room, an Intensive Care Unit and two 4-bedded wards, all for me and a nursing sister to look after! Deannie and I had a cabin in the bows; it had formerly been a hospital ward, was painted brilliant white and was enormous. The patient recovered consciousness after half an hour, with the aid of an intravenous infusion, but, because the diagnosis was in doubt (all my tests had been negative) we decided to evacuate him by helicopter to hospital on land (We were only an hour out of Southampton). There followed an amazing episode. Imagine a ship steaming at 25mph in the pitch black, a helicopter flying parallel to the ship, lights blazing, rotors screaming, a fantastic downdraught and plenty of adrenaline. The helicopter hovered over the ship, lowered its cable, the patient (with helicopter paramedic)was attached and the helicopter swung sideways, suspending the patient and the paramedic over the sea. After what seemed like minutes, the helicopter suddenly dropped about 30 feet, the winch was operated and the patient and paramedic disappeared into the body of the helicopter. Amazing flying skills! The man had been travelling as the carer to an 87 year old lady with osteoporosis. We could not get her off and she had to travel with us for 4 days until we had passed the Bay of Biscay and could put her ashore in Portugal to fly home. She really blossomed during those few days, was often seen about the ship in better and better make-up and was thoroughly fed-up to have to leave the ship, declaring that she would return soon for a cruise on her own as everyone had been so kind to her.
Four days later, we had an episode which was quite frightening for me, hundreds of miles from land and any help. A two year old boy had suffered an ear infection and had been vomiting to the point where he had become very floppy through dehydration. At home, I would have admitted him to hospital for rehydration but that was not an option so we set up a Dextrose/Saline drip and, within 24 hours, he was rushing around the ship, quite a celebrity.
Later, we had a similar episode with an 85 year old lady a couple of days before we docked. She developed pneumonia and dehydration and spent a couple of days in our hospital before being offloaded into an ambulance when we arrived back in Southampton. I was not allowed to leave the ship until all the passengers had disembarked – just as well because a man was found dead in his cabin during my 6.45am breakfast. I rushed up there, put out a Code Alpha which caused all sorts of crewmen and the nurse to arrive with a defibrillator, oxygen, drip sets, Adrenaline, etc., and actually managed to resuscitate the passenger. As we were docked in Southampton at the time, we could use shore facilities so we called an ambulance. To my amazement, the ambulance crew were with us within 5 minutes. I later discovered that they had attended to take the 85 year old lady to hospital and had only just loaded her into the vehicle when we called. In the event, she was turfed out of the vehicle which was then used to take the resuscitated patient to hospital while we found somewhere warm to keep the old lady pending her transfer to hospital.
The job was quite busy – 2 surgeries a day plus cabin visits and night visits, senior officers’ daily meeting, various cocktail parties where the captain and officers had to greet all the passengers, food-handler inspections, 140 at a time, infection control meetings, and so on, all with the ship dancing around like a flea in a fit. I had three uniforms – navy blue with sleeve rings, cream with epaulettes and formal, which was a cutaway cream formal jacket with epaulettes, worn with black dinner jacket trousers. Needless to say, Deannie more than kept up, with some lovely evening dresses for the formal occasions. She enjoyed herself, filling her time with yoga, keep-fit, deck-walking, lectures, Bridge lessons, Spa treatments, reading and so on.
All in all, a great success, good to have a bit of a career boost at my age, and we shall be travelling with them to Norway in July.
Marks & Spencer and their tights: In our day, the girls wore stockings and, in a new relationship, the length of time taken to reach the stocking top was measured in weeks. Then, in the late 1960′s, tights arrived and the playing field changed shape, and not for the better! For about 40 years, tights were tights (thick or thin) and then, a year or two ago, I wrote about a new innovation – M&S Body Sensor Technology tights. My enquiries revealed that these had nothing to do with them informing the lady that she had wet herself and were, in fact, cool to wear in Summer and warm to wear in Winter. Perhaps “Weather Sensor technology tights” would have been a better title. M&S are at it again and have now developed “Moisturising tights”. As a testosterone laden 17 year old, I may have thought these quite an exciting concept but now, 50 years later, I am only mildly interested to learn that these tights moisturise the ladies’ legs as they move. The tights are coated with millions of tiny bubbles (containing aloe vera, marine plant extract and gingko biloba) that are ruptured by friction, last for 10 washes and give wearers the illusion of bare legs. At