20TH JANUARY 2023
So much of sailing is preparation. Working through the dreaded ‘what if’ scenarios’. And while most people will think of sinking boats and broken masts it is in fact a medical emergency that can be the greatest and perhaps the most common challenge. On ocean passages help may be two weeks away.
Heart attacks, strokes, burns and head injuries are a few of a scarily long list that we all hope never to have to deal with. A basic First Aid certificate would not prepare us for such eventualities and neither would the average medical kit of plasters, paracetamol and sea sick pills. As operators of a Cat 0 commercial vessel both Ian and I are required to hold a Proficiency in Medical Care on Board Ship certificate. An award normally held by the captains of supertankers and cargo ships. Not so often the little sailing vessels bobbing around the vast oceans. This week long course run by a paramedic with 30 years experience had us stitching wounds, applying catheters, setting up cannulars and bracing broken bones. We were assured that if the time did arise that significant medical intervention was required then a doctor at the end of our satellite phone would guide us through the procedures again and authorise us to draw on the extensive medical supplies – including controlled drugs – that we are authorised to carry.
Here is hoping we never have to draw on our lessons but in all the courses I have done over the years this has to have been one of the most practical and worthwhile ones.