How do we provide medical care at Casey?

Doctor, Doctor and the Lay Surgical Team

At each station, four lucky wintering expeditioners are trained as ‘Lay Surgical Assistants’ to help the lone wintering doctor.  Be it a true medical emergency or a toothache, it pays to have a few extra sets of hands. 

Prior to departure Garvan, Amy, Rhys and Aaron were drilled by the experienced nursing staff at Royal Hobart Hospital.  In what was by all accounts a highly surreal two weeks, they left their lives as carpenters, plumbers and engineers, and entered the ‘OT’.  It’s a privileged experience, in a world of lacerations and tendons, beating hearts, Caesarean sections and breathing tubes passing through vocal cords.

The LSAs, having demonstrated they have a firm stomach and understand how to keep things sterile, continue training on station.  Marissa (wintering doctor) and Rob (summering doctor) help the enthusiastic four through a warren of medical jargon and beeping equipment.  For the station doctor, it’s a satisfying opportunity to build a team, do some teaching and foster obsessive handwashing habits.

Coming down South as the doctor is incredible.  The station often reminds you that they want you as bored as possible, but there is plenty to do.  After months of training in Kingston we adopt many new roles to provide healthcare.  You are not just the doctor, but also the onsite medical stores manager, physiotherapist, vigilant public health advocate, cleaner, counsellor, radiographer, dentist, medical equipment trouble-shooter and calibrator, ship’s doctor and aeromedical officer.  All supported by advanced telecommunication links back to Kingston.  You help Australia continue as a pioneer in remote medicine, and leave with a great appreciation of how much effort it takes on many levels to provide a health service.

Before coming South, people are most keen to hear about the state of your appendix (do you still have it? are they going to take it? have you heard about that Russian doctor?).  Rest assured that everyone is allowed to take their appendix to Antarctica — everyone except the wintering doctor (you should look up that Russian doctor). 

The Australian Antarctic Program operates by the wise adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’.  If medical care is required however, the doctor with their capable LSA team is well set up to respond.

What an opportunity!

Rob and Marissa

Get to know a Casey expeditioner — Doreen McCurdy

Name: Doreen McCurdy

Nicknames: Doors, Dozza

From: It’s a long story…. But I pay rent in East Ballina in northern NSW

Previous seasons? None yet

Job title: ESS (Engineering Services Supervisor)

Describe your role in two sentences:

Problem solver. Planning upcoming works and resources and having backup plans due to change in weather, conditions, material availability and priorities required by head office.

What did you do before your joined the AAD?

Civil site engineer on the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade, looking after drainage installation. I have worked in construction of roads and gas plants over the last few years.

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey?

Helping out as slushy in the kitchen.

If you were not an ESS what would be your dream job?

Installing water and wastewater treatment facilities in third world countries.

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south?

First and best so far

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Reading, playing guitar and drinking copious amounts of fruit tea.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far?

Balaclava by Arctic Monkeys

What actor would play you in a film version of our 72nd ANARE season here at Casey?

Lara Croft — Tomb Raider

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit?

Prescription Spotter extra dark sunnies. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the scenery much if it wasn’t for them.

What is your favourite book / movie (or both) and why?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho for tidbits of wisdom

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite?

Ducky’s playlist

Describe your Casey experience with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste.

Sight: The view from my bedroom window overlooking Newcomb Bay with icebergs floating by and a red Hägg parked up front to remind me where I am.

Smell: The whiff of penguin on a westerly wind.

Sound: Crunching of snow underfoot as you walk to work.

Feeling: Awe when you remember how special it is to be on this wondrous and harsh continent.

Taste: My neck warmer being blown into my mouth on windy days.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with?

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” — Henry David Thoreau

Something people may not know about you:

I played keyboard in a Dutch folk music band in my early 20’s.