Working as a Radiologist at the North Norway University hospital, I am used to dealing with extreme medicine physiology and logistics on regular basis. At our remote location, our hospital takes care of 500 000 inhabitants living across a vast area, including the beautiful remoteness of Svalbard. I have treated people following polar bear attacks, avalanches, mountain falls and shipwrecks.
We prepare patients for long medevac flights using planes and helicopters, journey times lengthened during ice storms and bad weather conditions. Our remote location leaves us vulnerable but teamwork plays a big part in all we do so we make good use of new technologies, including teleradiology, which I use on a daily basis.
Personally, I am so grateful to the people at the University Hospital in North Norway not only for having the opportunity to work together with them as senior doctor but also for maintaining my medical career after having a bad skiing accident in 1999.
The accident gave me a core body temperature of 13.7 degrees and no heart beat for 2 hours and 45 minutes. The medical team never gave up on me and their knowledge of extreme physiology saved me. Their slogan is
“nobody is dead until warm and dead.”
After 1 hour helicopter transportation, 9 hours in the operating room, 6 days on ECMO, 6 days on kidney replacement therapy, 5 weeks on a ventilator and 1-2 years partially paralysed from the neck down, I now lead a completely normal life, helping other patients.
We should think of extreme medicine as an important and normal part of medicine. We never know when we might need to draw upon our knowledge of extreme physiology and associated logistics. Being prepared is the best way to handle the situation.