Lifeboats Where There Are None: Day 2 – “Trial By Fire”

Another day of the crazy course has come to a close, but in so many ways we’re just getting started. It’s Wednesday, but I have to spend a long time thinking about what day it could possibly be before I find myself landing on an answer. Though I’ve only been here for 48 hours, my world has shrunk down to just a handful of buildings, a small strip of land, and a few dozen people. Every so often, my phone rings, reminding me of the life I’ve built and have waiting for me back in Greece, but that’s on the back burner right now, certainly.

This morning, I shuffled over to the castle for breakfast again and then joined my cohort in the lecture hall for our second day of “Casualty Care.” Today, our talk was focused on stabilizing patients, burns, infections, illnesses, drowning, sea-sickness, sun stroke, and hypothermia. All of these little lessons we’re having thrown at us are being presented in such a way that, if we were to encounter them in real life, we have the tools to quickly assess what’s going on and respond accordingly. All of us here have experience working with refugees, so the course is specifically designed to cater to what could be happening in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.

In between our lectures, we had the opportunity to run some scenarios for dressing wounds, placing splints and moving patients on stretchers. None of this is overly difficult to do, until you realize just how much brain space has been taken up by two full days of medical lectures on topics you know nothing about. I’m so out of my element here, but I still refuse to fall out of the race.

In the evening, after dinner, we were rounded up once again to attend a lecture about Tsunamis. This felt a little odd to me, but it was totally fascinating. The engineer presenting the information for us had a clear passion for the material and it was fun to get a glimpse inside of his brain. While tsunamis didn’t strike me as totally relevant to what we’re doing, it turns out that this organization provided lifeboats to people in Japan after the Tsunami in 2011. The boats were used to rescue people once the water came ashore. I suppose I should just brace myself for a week of unique lectures. My takeaway from this lecture: Tsunamis are scary, and if you see the sea retreating, it means you’ve got five minutes to high tail it out of there before the big wave comes ashore.

At the conclusion of the evening, we were told that we had completed our Casualty Care portion of the course for the next few days. This was a lie though, because as we made our way down to the locker room to get fitted for our wetsuits for tomorrow, we were encountered with a surprise triage scenario.

There, scattered in front of us on the rocks and the slipway next to the sea were FIFTY-NINE actors, all sprawled out on the ground and screaming and running around, creating a mass casualty situation for us to run into and triage. It was completely overwhelming. There were three drones flying overhead, recording what we were doing. It was total chaos. All of a sudden, everything I had learned over the last two days flew out of my brain, along with everyone else around me.

Even though it’s so clearly fake, it’s incredibly overwhelming to witness dozens of people all fighting for your attention, and for you to assist them. I was so thankful when the scenario ended, because I was completely lost the entire time it was happening. The instructors rounded us up when it was over and debriefed with us. They told us we had done a good job even though we had done horribly. We’re all a bunch of amateurs with two days of experience. It’s not exactly fair to expect us to be able to sort out 59 hurt people. But, at the very least, it was the end to another exciting day.

I’m hanging in there! I’m waaaaaaaay outside of my comfort zone here, but I’m still alive.

Before breaking this evening, we were all fitted for our wetsuits and we will have our first go on the boats in the sea starting tomorrow morning.


One thought on “Lifeboats Where There Are None: Day 2 – “Trial By Fire”

  1. Fucking hell mate that last part sounds insane.. hope all is well, love from leros.

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