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Discussion Starter #1
How about some juicy MEDICO stories?
I am sure our sparkies have many of those.
With yr permission I shall open the thread with one of mine.
Back in 1959 I was a Chief Officer aboard a Zim log-carrier en route from 4XO to 9LL to pick up a bunch of Kroo-boys for a Gulf of Guinea round trip. We had a sick crew-member aboard and the master told me at lunch he was going to ask Sparks to cable 6VA for medical advice. I went on watch at 16:00 to find the Old Man on the bridge, quite agitated. I asked him what medical advise did he receive.
"The idiot of a doctor prescribed acid acetyl salicyl - a medicine we do not stock. I cabled back telling him that requesting an alternative."
I burst into laugh. I told him it was Aspirin. Only the doctors reply convinced him I was right.
It made me think that doctor was indeed, in a way, an idiot . He knew he was corresponding with a cargo ship, not with a cruise vessel hosting an annual pharmacists convention.
 

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#1 . Think 6VA was Dakar Radio - I'm glad my life didn't depend on getting a reply out of them!

One time, crossing the Australian Bight the 3d Mate who was the "doctor" on board came up to the radio room wanting to make a medical call to Adelaide. He described the ailment of a sailor on board and I said: "Sounds like a dose of clap to me." He proceeded with the call and eventually spoke to a nurse at an Adelaide hospital. He described the symptoms and she said: "Sounds like a dose of clap to me!" Yeeeah! I was made up. We were only a couple of days from port so she said he could just put up with it.

John T
 

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I spent much of my career on Dive Support vessels. Unfortunately MEDICO was not qualified to deal with decompression or other sicknesses. We had an air diver on Pacific Installer who got into difficulties in only a few feet of water. It turned out to be carbon monoxide poisoning. The exhaust from the compressor on deck had been sucked in via the intake. The poor man died on board a few hours later.

We had a live SSB link to an expert dive doctor in Paris from our location off the Tunisian coast. The costs for the call came in a while later and was astronomical, at 3 plus hours duration.
 

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Not my story, but that of one now deceased. As second mate, it fell to him to give injections when needed. The chief engineer was in need of such treatment (we need not discuss why), but was particularly nervous of needles. Also his trust in the second mate was less than it might have been for a fully qualified doctor or nurse and he was deeply embarrassed to expose his hind quarters to another man. Therefore he was unable to restrain himself from trying to fend off the approaching needle from his buttock with one hand.

The plan was to slap the buttock a few times and then apply the needle in sequence with the slaps. A well tried technique. However this would be impossible as both the second mate's hands would be occupied, one with the needle and the other restraining the interfering hand. An assistant would be needed to administer the slaps.

My friend was able to recruit the second steward for this duty. Apparently slapping the chief's buttock would be right up his street. In the event the homophobic chief was roaring, "Don't let that queer bastard near me. Hurry up with the injection." My friend told him, "It's already done."
 

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At GKA we handled numerous Medico calls, connecting calls or relaying messages to the duty doctor at the RN Hospital at Haslar amongst other places. Whilst I am aware of many 'stories' with such calls I (personally) don't feel comfortable in relating details, many of which did not have happy outcomes.

If we took a Medico on W/T it was our duty to stay with the ship until the case was resolved - relaying messages to and from the ship to the hospital and vice versa and all details logged. And of course a Medico call would receive priority over all other commercial traffic.

Larry +
 

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When I was on the Regent Falcon we had a galley boy that had appendicitis and we had to put into the Azores for him to be hospitalised, on sailing the cook was found in tears as it turned out it was his boyfriend.
 

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Off S African coast (in the days you could hug the coast line), engineer with "indigestion" again. OM had MF phone call to Durban Hospital at 8pm. QSA 1 QRK 1, static banging away like marbles in a dustbin. OM looks at me "what did he say".
I said (with fingers crossed behind my back) "Get him ashore ASAP.
Hour later RV with pilot boat but the J/E ashore.
Next morning got QTC, he had peritonitis !! He's OK.
Uncrossed fingers.
 

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At GKA we handled numerous Medico calls, connecting calls or relaying messages to the duty doctor at the RN Hospital at Haslar amongst other places. Whilst I am aware of many 'stories' with such calls I (personally) don't feel comfortable in relating details, many of which did not have happy outcomes.

If we took a Medico on W/T it was our duty to stay with the ship until the case was resolved - relaying messages to and from the ship to the hospital and vice versa and all details logged. And of course a Medico call would receive priority over all other commercial traffic.

Larry +
Thanks for the reassuring background information. I imagine you would have signed the official secrets act to operate in a shore station.
 

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Thanks for the reassuring background information. I imagine you would have signed the official secrets act to operate in a shore station.
We did indeed. We were/are forbidden to divulge the content of any message or radiotelephone call to any third party, or even acknowledge the existence of same. R/T calls were monitored to ensure commercial quality, and most of the time the details of the calls weren't of any interest. Similarly Medico incidents and connections.

The only time we could advise a third party was if there was content possibly affecting the safety of a ship (cargo shifting, listing etc.) in which case we would ask the permission of the Master to advise Lloyds of London of the content.

This is why in my GKA book there are scant references to messages or calls, apart from the 1958 Royal Visit telegram and other high profile messages which were widely publicised in the press at the time.

Larry +
 

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When I was on the Regent Falcon we had a galley boy that had appendicitis and we had to put into the Azores for him to be hospitalised, on sailing the cook was found in tears as it turned out it was his boyfriend.
The romance of the sea. Fancy being replaced by a pound of liver.

John T
 

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He described the ailment of a sailor on board and I said: "Sounds like a dose of clap to me." He proceeded with the call and eventually spoke to a nurse at an Adelaide hospital. He described the symptoms and she said: "Sounds like a dose of clap to me!" Yeeeah!

A little off course here, but 'a dose of the clap' reminds me of a very embarrassing moment.
We were at anchor in Havana harbour, I had damaged my thumb and was to be sent ashore to see a doctor.
Transport was arranged to get me ashore. There were 4 deck-hands going ashore too to see the doctor, and all four had been determined to have the clap.
Imagine how I felt when we were herded into the doctor's office and the amount of looks and giggling that went on among the female patients in the waiting room when the receptionist broadcast what we were there for. I'm sure she did!
When I was called to see the doctor, and told to drop my pants, I had a hard time convincing the non-English speaking doctor I was there about my thumb.
 

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Leaving Havana after my first visit I was visited by our medical attendant (good geordie bloke) who enquired whether I was in need of a jag of penicillin, I said no thanks but why do you ask, his response was we have just run out and half the bermudian laundrymen will be in agony until we reach New York. No need for any radio messages just let them suffer but not in silence.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I think we all should take this opportunity to salute CIRM (Centro Internazionale Radio Medico) who was the pioneer of radio medical assistance and is still in service since in 1935.
As a master, in the 1960s, I used them several times (via IRM) and found them highly professional and effective. Their English was good as well.
 

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The CIRM I know is the Comité International Radio-Maritime (CIRM). The 'non-profit' club of Radio Electronics companies. Whilst CIRM may be a non-profit it's members are not and I am suspicious that they are one main factor in supplier led 'innovations' such as AIS ("Look Mr. IMO, what we have cooked-up, this lets you look the other side of icebergs, if both of you have it switched on, will you make it compulsory please? Pretty please").
 

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On the Post Champion heading south in the Pacific, we were about 2 or 3 days from New Zealand. About 5 pm the old man rings me in the radio room - they thought one of the elderly engine room greasers had taken a heart attack and could I get some help quickly. Fortuneatly it was just on quarter past 5, so waited until the silence period had ended then broadcast XXX, Auckland Radio ZLA came back immediately asking about the symptoms, after replying, it only seemed like a few minutes until he came back with advice. Luckily it all turned out well, seems the poor bloke had only choked on a lump of beef while having his tea. A full recovery was made.
 
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