Friday, 27 April 2018 – day 34

Sad tidings!

My new friend has gone to a better place.

He disappeared late during the night, and I found him belly up in the cockpit this morning.

The procedure to declare death in the medical world is, as per usual with medicine, a strange combination of the traditional, the bizarre and the practical.

It is a set out procedure, and the note usually looks like this:

Asked to see patient as unresponsive.
No heart or breath sounds heard for 2 minutes
No response to verbal stimuli.
No response to central stimuli.
No withdrawal from peripheral stimuli
Pupils fixed and dilated.

I declare Joe Bloggs dead at 18:56 on 27/4/2018.
May he rest in peace

It’s all very well set out like that, but when it’s the second day out of med school it’s a bit more of a challenge.

I suspect there isn’t a med student who when asked to listen to an obviously living (even to a med student) chest, has placed the stethoscope, heard absolutely nothing, nodded wisely, backed away, and tried to avoid any questions.

Two minutes is also an awfully long time to have a stethoscope placed on a dead man’s chest and it gets quite awkward if you’ve been silly enough to give the family the option of staying (I only ever made that mistake once)

Deep within the bowels of the hospital, there are many echoes as the cogs of the health system grind away. For some reason a recently deceased chest makes a perfect sound box for which to transmit these heart like sounds directly to ones eardrums.

As the world of medical training slowly chokes the life out of your hopes and dreams, the aspirations subtly shift.

The front page of the Daily Telegraph looks terrible on the CV and is to be avoided at all costs.

“Patient wakes up in morgue” “Incompetent intern loses registration”

The stress fades away with time as you become aware of what death looks, smells, and sounds like.

But on my second day, covering the wards overnight, the only doctor in the ward at 2:30 AM, I didn’t have this luxury of experience. He looked quite unmoving to me, but suddenly I was being asked to pronounce some of the most significant words every pronounced in the history of this patient before me. I wanted to be certain!!

The curtains were drawn and I listened to the chest. I stopped listening to the chest and was no more certain than when I started.

The ward was darkened and the bedside light was dim. I realised I wasn’t carrying a penlight. I got out my smart phone and hit the torch button. I felt a little silly and glad that no one was watching as I went from eye to eye. Nothing much happened. A bit more certainty now.

Central stimuli! A wonderful euphemism for inflicting pain and seeing what happens. I had never attempted to torture a corpse before and found it difficult. I half-heartedly rubbed the chest and squeezed the fingers. Then my medical conscience got the better of me and I did the old ‘dig the thumb above the eye, and try and remove a finger nail’ that the neurosurgeons love to do on comatose patients.

Nothing happened. Feeling a little more confident and quite glad no one had been watching me stumble awkwardly through this ritual, I parted the curtains and headed to the nurses station. The head nurse came up to me and handed me a penlight, “you might find this useful next time”.

My visitor didn’t require such elaborate rituals. He certainly wasn’t pining for the fjords!

I wrapped him in toilet paper as a makeshift shroud and he got a full burial at sea with the ‘Libera Me’ and ‘Benedictus’ sung as he drifted away.

The timing is a little strange, as today is the anniversary of my father death.

In other news, I tried pancakes today. The easiness to tastiness ratio is perfect!!

I also took a ‘Noon sight’ with the sextant to measure latitude. I was about 3 miles off which isn’t terrible for a first time sight, but I’ll keep working on it.

The sea and wind has picked up a little so the ride is a little bumpier. I have my hatches closed up!

This far south, the solar panel is less effective due to the angles of the sun, and my house battery was starting to get a little low, so it’s nice to hear the wind turbine generator spinning again!

Latitude: -42.574, Longitude: -177.081, Time: 07:00:42 27-04-2018 UTC