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A story from Antarctica that touches on Mars… November 16, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Slate’s political gabfest noted in passing the following story, a Soviet surgeon in Antarctica in the early 1960s who fell ill with appendicitis who had to operate on himself. This in the context of multi-year space missions where astronauts would potentially fall ill from operable illnesses.

The Soviet story is fascinating:

During an expedition to the Antarctic, Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov became seriously ill. He needed an operation – and as the only doctor on the team, he realised he would have to do it himself.
As the polar winter rolled in, 27-year-old Leonid Rogozov started to feel tired, weak and nauseous. Later, a strong pain developed down the right side of his abdomen.
“Being a surgeon, he had no difficulty in diagnosing acute appendicitis,” says his son, Vladislav. “It was a condition he’d operated on many times, and in the civilised world it’s a routine operation. But unfortunately he didn’t find himself in the civilised world – instead he was in the middle of a polar wasteland.”

And it was a large team there. Twelve personnel in total. But as the piece notes, the base was inaccessible by plane and a sea journey would take many days. It’s a remarkable story

Rogozov worked out a detailed plan for how the operation would unfold and assigned his colleagues specific roles and tasks.
He nominated two main assistants to hand him instruments, position the lamp, and hold a mirror – he planned to use the reflection to see what he was doing. The station director was also in the room, in case one of the others became faint.
“He was so systematic he even instructed them what to do if he was losing consciousness – how to inject him with adrenalin and perform artificial ventilation,” says Vladislav. “I don’t think his preparation could have been better.”

With no general anaesthetic possible – for obvious reasons, he was stuck with local anaesthetic but only for the abdominal wall since further pain relief would likely cloud his perception.

“My poor assistants! At the last minute I looked over at them. They stood there in their surgical whites, whiter than white themselves,” Rogozov wrote later. “I was scared too. But when I picked up the needle with the novocaine and gave myself the first injection, somehow I automatically switched into operating mode, and from that point on I didn’t notice anything else.”

Brave man.

It took two hours and by his own account he managed to excise it just in time. Having had experience of a close family member with appendicitis this last year or so I’m awestruck by Rogozov’s sheer fortitude in his task given how painful it can be.

Add to that the simple fact Rogozov appears to have been a genuinely dedicated doctor, happiest at work in his clinic and sound person, and this tale came in the same fortnight as another 27 year old, Yuri Gagarin became the first human into space (Rogozov soured on Antarctica after that event for obvious reasons).

Regarding Mars the BBC report notes:

Appendectomies are now compulsory for Antarctic explorers from several countries such as Australia. And some in the medical profession have suggested the procedure should be given to any future astronauts leaving the Earth to form a colony on Mars or the Moon.

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