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Steve Irwin Medical Blog

by Dr. Merryn Redenbach
Ship's Medical Officer, Steve Irwin

We've been at sea for 7 days now on the long passage to Antarctica and life is setting into a routine, interrupted by bursts of excitement when the harpoon vessel spy ship trailing us since we left Australian waters suddenly draws closer.

The first few days were very busy in the medical locker. To start with, we needed to sort out and stow a large volume of essential supplies kindly donated by our wonderful medical supporters in Western Australia, Victoria, and beyond. The early days of campaign are also the busiest time for sea sickness, and overwork injuries from the hectic lead up to departure when our crew were working huge hours to prepare for us to leave on time.

This year we have a dedicated medical room with two large cupboards for stowage, a crash cart, bunk, and desk with two shelves for medical reference books.

Thanks to the kind donations and hard work of our medical volunteers, we are better prepared than ever to provide care and emergency assistance for our crew. We have monitoring equipment, oxygen and suction capabilities, evacuation equipment, a wide range of essential medicines, an automatic external defibrillator as well as a great range of medical textbooks and DVDs important as we can't access the internet.

Our medical team this year consists of the multi-talented Brian Race, a US volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, and James Brook, an Australian theatre technician and musician, and myself, a paediatric physician trainee from Australia. James and Brian worked hard in port receiving donations, ordering medical supplies, setting up the new medical room, and familiarizing themselves with our new equipment. The organization and functionality of our new medical room is a testament to their hard work as well as the generosity of our donors.

On our first rough night at sea, I slept in the medical room to make sure none of our supplies came loose. It held up quite well apart from 100 printed pages of the Australian Resuscitation Council Guidelines that ended up all over the office!

Yesterday, Brian, James, and I started extra training in emergency procedures they are learning to insert intravenous lines and set up for full scale resuscitation scenarios. In the absence of training dummies, they practicised on me: a chance to make a small repayment for the forebearance of the many patients who have helped me in my training.

When our small boat went out for the first time yesterday, we used it as an opportunity to set up for a potential hypothermia casualty. Thankfully everyone arrived back safely, and in the normal temperature range!, but being prepared would make a critical difference in an emergency.

As we draw closer to Antarctica, our thoughts always come back to our mission: to protect the lives of the magnificent creatures who share our world yet we are only just beginning to understand. Their existence, like so many other species, is tragically threatened by human actions.

We know that while we're putting our lives on the line to save a thousand whales and preserve our fragile marine environment, many more people on land are also spending their work and spare hours fighting to preserve our oceans, terrestrial habitats and, most urgently, our atmosphere. You are also in our thoughts!



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