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Accidents and Emergencies

By Harry Apperley and Joe Dorgham

Elective Jamaica

Things are hotting up. Even at 8am, the 200 metre stroll from our room to the hospital has us panting and perspiring. Our arrival in the emergency department is greeted with bustling corridors acting as overflow from the overwhelmed wards and waiting area.

Cornwall Regional Hospital serves 5 of Jamaica's 14 parishes; Hannover, St Elizabeth, St James, Trelawny and Westmoreland.  A population of 600,000 Jamaicans, whose homes span from the hustle of Montego Bay to the lofty, leafy heights of the country's sprawling forests.

The story of understaffed, under resourced and under pressure hospitals seems to be an international constant. Here, the ingenuity of medical staff keeps patients flowing through the department despite hugely limited stocks of both medication and equipment. Cue 38 year old gentleman strolling into A&E, gently hosing blood from his right wrist after severing his ulnar artery with glass. His tourniquet? A (hopefully) previously unused urethral catheter. Assisted by the operating room's resident cockroach, who scurried from wall to wall throughout the commotion, we ligated the patient's artery whilst he remained not only conscious, but also casually conducting phone calls using his healthy left hand.

The day's traumatic theme continued at pace. Our new found niche as suturers in the procedure room left us with a steady stream of customers. Our lacerated clientele included bottle slashed abdomen, spade smashed head and a scissor stabbed scapula. After a day full of 'accidents' and emergencies we stumbled out, blinking into the still sweltering sunset just in time for a much needed dip in the cooling waters of Dead End beach.

Over and out, Harry and Joe

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