At Casey we're scrubbing up on surgical skills, bringing the Olympics to Antarctica and discovering more about the lovely and interesting station doctor, Sheri.

Surgical team spirit: an afternoon workshop in the operating theatre

On Wednesday, the lay surgical team got gloved and gowned and ready to practice scrubbing and scouting. 

Getting ready for such an operation involves many steps: firstly preparing the theatre for the patient, then preparing the patient for theatre and of course preparing ourselves, getting correctly dressed and completing all the necessary documentation and items on our detailed checklists as well as being ready to carry out the procedure itself. I run regular training in the surgery to keep the team up to speed up with skills and knowledge.

The equipment bay had just been thoroughly re-organised for surgical set up and the first thing we did was “go shopping”. This involved the largest trolley in the suite and collecting items on our wish list for a possible abdominal operation. I made Dave, my lay scout nurse, work quite hard and with hardly any prompting, he and the team filled the trolley with over 30 items needed in the set up.

We then did a refresher on gloving and gowning, where I reminded everyone which hand was which and where your thumbs go, making them dance with each other to tie their gowns without desterilising and having to start again like a game of snakes and ladders. Draping can be equally tricky as packs must be opened a certain way, all the time observing the highest standards of sterile technique. Luckily no one was sent back to the scrub sink like an embarrassed medical student.

We had set everything up in the operating theatre as we would a real case, checking and testing the equipment just like an actual scenario. Once I was happy that all the whizz bang bits of kit were connected correctly and behaving, like any worthwhile surgeon, I loudly complained about the lights  and had them adjusted several times throughout. Exploiting the situation still further, I also required someone to mop my brow. Luckily Craig and Rob were available as spare assistants and happy to step up to this great task.

Once we were set up and ready to start, I practiced being an impatient surgeon calling for different instruments off the set. This sent my lay scout nurse Dave backwards and forward into the set up bays trying to locate “the long handled thing” or the “shorter blade”. We decided to keep a laminated copy of instruments on the set so I could simply point to things, like a lazy surgeon. I also kept Craig and Rob on their toes with various comments such as “the suction’s blocked” and “I’m not getting any diathermy” and they problem-solved like professionals.

My lay surgical assistant Bri did an excellent job of passing instruments, assisting and counting packs off at the end without taking her eye off the sterile field. Once I called for closure and dressings there was a sigh of relief all round as the operation finished and we packed up and debriefed.

In spite of this only being a practice, it was fairly realistic as I deliberately put everyone under some pressure. I must say I was very pleased with my little team at the end of the case.

The lay anaesthetic team are next up to undergo a refresher workshop and I will be putting them to the test with various drugs, equipment and maybe even a rubber doll…

Sheri Newman, Station Doctor and Surgical Registrar

The Casey Olympics

We couldn’t let the Olympics pass unremarked this year at Casey. Unfortunately, we can’t really watch them because the internet bandwidth isn’t sufficient so instead, we decided to hold our own version of them last Saturday night.

Five expeditioners volunteered to be a ‘host country', one representing each of the continents of Africa, Europe, Asia and North & South America. Since we are Australian and living in Antarctica, we thought we could leave those two out.

Each host country set up a room in the Red Shed in a way that captured the (comical) essence of that country, had something to eat or drink that was similarly representative and ran a couple of sports or games in keeping with the Olympic theme.

Craig chose Equatorial Guinea as his African country and we celebrated Eric Moussambani’s efforts in the pool at the Sydney Olympics. One of the games in our Equatorial Guinea room was a competition to see who could hold their breath the longest whilst submerged in a bucket of water. Bri celebrated South America with an entire corridor devoted to Columbia, resplendent with every fake plant we had on station to give the whole jungle effect. As it turned out, most people couldn’t keep themselves to a single country per se. So Gav's Asian contribution covered both the Koreas, Stu represented Europe through a general Scandanavian theme and Mark H decided that since there were only three countries in North America they could all get a look in (though Canada was the focus).

Once again, the creativity of the people on station was brought to the fore and whilst there wasn’t an enormous amount of athleticism shown, we had a lot of fun and actually learned quite a lot about parts of the world where many of us have not visited.

At the end of the evening, the station leader declared that he was “proud and happy to proclaim that we had presented the best Casey games ever”.

Misty’s Mad Minute, introducing Sheri

NAME: Sheri Newman

NICKNAME: Doc (but I really dislike it!)

ROLE ON STATION: Diet and fitness cop

OTHER APPOINTMENTS:  Station Doctor, Schools Liaison Officer, Assistant in library and hydroponics

Describe yourself in 3 words. Expect the unexpected.

Who inspires you? My imagination seems to know no limits.

Why Antarctica? It was finally time.

What did you give up to come to Antarctica? Everything on the mainland.

What’s the one thing you enjoy most about your job? Not carrying a surgical pager.  Although am technically on call 24/7, I am incredibly also the “hospital superintendent”.

Do you have a home to go back to? Negative. Stuff in storage in 4 states, no current address.

Do you think your pets will bite you? See above.

What other occupation would you have if not a surgeon? Aerobatics pilot or interior designer.  Likely to still do both.

Are you continuing study/ tertiary ed. / services duty? We have to continuously study to remain knowledgeable keep up to date etc, and here is no different. Big exam on return as well, so that’s a yes.

If not at Casey this year, what else would you be doing? On the mainland? Lots of operating. Year off?  Remote medicine, Amazon rainforest.

Hobbies at Casey? Going to bed early and watching movies, a total novelty.

New hobbies for home and the future? Going to bed early and watching movies.

Buying any large toys on your return home? I still want a V12 Aston Martin, but it’s been vetoed.  Have to settle for building my own plane.

Holidays planned? Somewhere I can surf, that’s totally tropical, ultra private and romantic.  If I told you the resort I’d have to shoot you.  And the rest of the crew.

The Red Shed is burning down and you are only have time to save one thing? Er…laptop? Oh sorry no, Thomas Pack in one hand, MRX in the other (emergency medical equipment)

You are stuck on a deserted island with one person? Andy Burgess.  Comms expert, karaoke king and natural comic.  I’d be entertained while waiting to be rescued by my amazing, clever and handsome pilot.

What are your tastebuds craving most? Avocado and tomato salad is what I normally live on.

One item you wished you brought down? An extra layer of body insulation.

Your favourite item to take on a jolly? A Hagg with working de-mister and fierce heating.

Any good at Antarctic sports? (table tennis, darts, pool) Successfully avoided so far although helpful backbencher for the Cam-Dan-Mark-Gav playoffs.

Favourite Antarctic wildlife? Leopard seals / Canadians/ penguins / elephant seals / Summerers snow petrels

Antarctic highlight? Ticket to ride the A319 aircraft and travel to Casey via the Antarctic Circle.  My photos went around the world to family and friends that day.

Favourite summer highlight? Boat trip to Browning on my second day. I saw every kind of Antarctic wildlife.

Winter highlight so far? Watching the sun on its short journey west from my clinic window.

Name one person you most like to winter with? Ernest Shackleton. Although Dave Davies comes a close second.

If your time in Antarctica was a book, which one would it be? The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Favourite ocean? The Pacific.

Favourite day of the year so far? Any Sunday at Casey. Also love Saturdays.  Heck, make it every day here. I’m having a ball.

How do you have your milk? From almonds mostly.  Laborious process of soaking, blending and straining.  Not too many ways here to be a raw vegan.

What is the first thing you will do when you return to Australia? Discharge myself of all medical responsibility of the Casey Crew.