Thursday, November 20, 2008

Extreme EM

The ER can be an intense environment - juggling critically ill patients and performing life-saving interventions in high stress situations - but imagine dealing with the rib-breaking coughs, frostbite, and high-altitude retinal hemorrhage that present when you practice emergency medicine at 18,000 feet above sea level.

It's all part of the job as described in this great article about the Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic, which treats its patients on the highest mountain in the world.  

"I was really concerned that Joe might not make it through the night.  They'd brought him down through the Khumbu Icefall - more than 7,000 feet - to our medical clinic at Everest base camp.  His face was blue, each breath was a struggle, and he was drowning in his own blood," says Luanne Freer, describing a patient treated at the clinic she founded in 2003.

As a runner who grew up in the flat plains of the Midwest, anything steeper than a small hill seems mountainous to me.  I can't even imagine what it must be like to be saving lives 3 miles off the ground.

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