Since arriving in Antarctica I have started watching the television series House MD, having never watched a single episode in my life before.

In fact, since being snowed in a blizzard at Mario Zuchelli Station at Terra Nova Bay enroute to McMurdo Station, from Series 1 Episode 1… and now I am coming to the end of Season 6, I became addicted.

Alongside my medical reading, House is fantastic revision when you are outside of a normal hospital and keeps the imagination pumped full of steroids.

I can’t understand why nearly all patients, especially in Season 6, vomit blood and code immediately into cardiac arrest.  But i’m surprised that ‘Ativan’ isn’t used as much as it was in the first series – is the drug company not pushing as hard?

And furthermore I can’t understand why each patient at some point in each episode is investigated for Paraneoplastic Syndrome?  What is this mysterious and common condition that never features on the wards in England?

Down here in Antarctica, like in the episode ‘Frozen’ based on the illness of an Antarctic Doctor based at the South Pole, you never know what will happen down here and to be honest you never will know what happened.  Principally because there is no CT scanner or immunology assay or high tech down here – its simple, raw medicine – like on a mountainside or in a jungle, except even more remote – that has reminded me of my love and the challenges of remote, expedition and wilderness medicine.

You have to take the lessons and cases you have seen, take a step back and at the same time as looking at the big picture, find the details within it.

Down here, Less is More.  You have to watch and wait and let the disease reveal its identity.  Its a race against time of some sorts and a battle of wits.

Its ‘House’ but without the toys.

A previous mentor, Canadian Professor Pamela Orr, who knows the Arctic, its peoples and their diseases better than anyone, once told me why Infectious Diseases and Microbiology became her specialty.  Each bacterium, virus or fungus was its own individual and colourful theatre character – each acting out in play.  You just had to watch and pay attention to it for a few minutes – soon after, if you had seen the play before, you’d recognise the story and know what came next, in time to step in and change the ending, saving the patient.

Having just overcome a sore-throat and fever myself, I am left to wonder…as the lone doctor down here, was it just a sore-throat or is it the beginning of Paraneoplastic Syndrome.

Only time will tell.  The show must go on.


Song of the day:

A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procul Harum