Rescue: Extreme Medics shows how lives are saved in remotest Scotland after injuries on mountains and oil rigs
Dr Jasmine Medhora trained in London but at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary she is often faced with patients who have been rescued from isolated places after unusual injuries, as a new documentary reveals
Article by Etan Smallman | INEWS UK
Craig, a 51-year-old cyclist, has had a head-on collision with the digger bucket on a powerful loading machine. With his throat punctured by its serrated edge, he is rushed to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary – where Dr Jasmine Medhora, registrar in emergency medicine and critical care, admits she is not exactly able to picture what a digger bucket is.
You can hardly blame her. The 32-year-old trained in London, where trauma patients would often present with knife or gunshot wounds. These injuries are still seen in Scotland’s major towns and cities, but now she is also receiving patients who have been rescued from some of the most inaccessible and logistically challenging geography in Europe, many suffering after horrific accidents while working on farms or oil rigs.
How their accidents happened matters: when Craig arrives, for example, she has to worry about whether his neck wounds have been in contact with potentially deadly bacteria in manure.
Medical intervention on unusual injuries is all part of the job for members of the Scottish Trauma Network, a new “super-service”, whose work, spread over the nation’s 30,000 square miles, is captured in a new Channel 4 documentary series, Rescue: Extreme Medics.
“The clinicians that work up here are trained to manage that extra element of difficulty,” Dr Medhora tells i. “They’re up to that challenge.”
And it is not for the faint-hearted. Staff in the show are regularly heard nonchalantly uttering lines such as: “There’s every chance the patient may be bleeding to death.”
Dr Jasmine Medhora trained in London but has to deal with different medical emergencies in Aberdeen (Photo: Channel 4)
In just the first episode, viewers are confronted with the story of Euan, a civil engineer working on remote pylons, whose arm is trapped under a 650kg quad bike. Only after three and a half hours is he able to dig a hole around his pocket to reach his phone and dial 999, but he is losing consciousness while rescuers try to reach a part of Skye with no road access.
Meanwhile, Oscar, a 17-year-old tree surgeon, is thought to have lacerated his arm with a chainsaw in Balfron, a village near Stirling. His blood loss is impossible to determine because, says consultant Dr Niall McMahon, “grass and sawdust can accommodate a huge amount of blood without really showing much sign of it”.
In subsequent episodes, we meet Iain, a 55-year-old amateur pilot, after his plane crashed – leaving him with broken ribs, two broken ankles, two broken vertebrae and internal bleeding. And there’s 41-year-old Max, who has been crushed under a dumper truck while at work in rural Dumfriesshire, 60 miles south-west of the nearest major trauma centre.
‘Rescue: Extreme Medics’ shows how some patients have to be rescued by helicopter from stunning but dangerous locations (Photo: Channel 4)
The elite network of clinicians often have to create a mobile hospital on a small patch of narrow road or bucolic wilderness. Air ambulances may have to land on extremely uneven ground, before leaving the scene to refuel so they can return to transfer the stabilised patient to hospital.
Dr Medhora says the series is more full-on than anything she has seen on TV. “I think it reflects the wilder landscape, compared with more city-based medical documentaries that have previously been shown. I think it does show how raw trauma can be, because it reflects that you can be doing something everyday, like enjoying a bike ride, and have an injury that impacts you significantly.”
Since moving from the capital to Aberdeen in 2016, she has had to get used to treating patients whose extractions from some of the most far-flung parts of the British Isles may already have taken several hours, before they spend up to three more hours to reach her by road.
She has had to educate herself about the nature of agricultural injuries – once treating a farmer who was crushed against a gate by one of his cows, leaving him with “quite significant intra-abdominal injuries” that were “essentially hidden”.
Paramedics have to be ready to visit any part of Scotland’s 30,000 square miles of land (Photo: Channel 4)
Trauma remains the fourth leading cause of death in western countries and is the leading cause of death in people under 40. In Scotland, around 4,000 people are seriously injured each year and in the control centre in Glasgow, specialist clinicians are monitoring almost 5,000 emergency calls a day before working alongside the Coastguard, Fire and Rescue Service and RNLI to expedite a successful rescue.
Dr Medhora is no longer surprised by her colleagues’ ability to locate needle-in-a-haystack patients marooned on a sheer cliff-face, treat them with just the equipment that will fit in their kit bag, and present them to her emergency department. Rather, she is “more in awe, really. Because I am so used to having things handed to me if we’re all working in a team, or knowing where everything is in a pre-prepared ward. They’re definitely in a much wilder environment compared with the resus room.
“I just hope everyone really enjoys the series,” she says. “I think it’s nice to embrace something within healthcare that isn’t pandemic-related.”
The registrar, who tries to unwind by baking and listening to comedy podcasts, says her experience has changed how she views the rugged scenery of the Highlands.
“I think it’s an odd, dangerous attraction of Scotland. The terrain is beautiful, the weather can change really at any moment, no matter how many times you check the forecast. You can literally see weather fronts coming in.
“I think Scotland looks at its best in almost that James Bond, Skyfall-type scenery – lots of mist, low cloud, overcast, and it just looks dramatic and wild. But there is always that risk in the background, of you’re very remote if something goes wrong.”