The Incident of the Cannula and the Tourniquet

There had been hints of what our medical training would involve and the rumours didn’t fill me with many happy feelings. It was said that we would be “sticking needles in each other” which can leave me a little weak at the knees. But the medical training, and practicing by poking around with needles, shocked me. This is a serious business and solo yacht racing is a dangerous sport that can result in major injuries, made worse by the fact that help could be days away. The possibility that a cannula would have to be hooked up to the patient is very realistic and when Dr Spike slapped his hands together and said “time for something more practical” I knew what we were about to undergo. Very simply a cannula is a tube that is inserted into the body, in this case a vein, for the delivery or removal of fluid,

I was teamed up with fellow Artemis Academy rookie, the very enthusiastic Mary Rook, who quickly decided she was going first and wasted no time in finding a good chunky vain. The plan was to push a cannula towards and into a vein and stick it in place ready for an intravenous bag; Mary was straight in there… literally! So while the appropriately named Dr Spike had his back turned I looked away and went to my special place and Mary got to work. A tight strap called a tourniquet is placed around the upper arm putting more blood pressure in the vain so it is easy to find, once the needle is in you’re SUPPOSED to take the tourniquet off – a vital step – Mary decided to forget. So as she removed the needle leaving the plastic tubing of the cannula in the vein, the blood that was unable to flow out of my arm had a new opening , and in to the air, then onto the floor.

So, as blood gushed from the small opening Mary called for Dr Spike while laughing hysterically. Dr Spike, still unaware of the mess being made, turned to see what resembled a scene from a Quintin Tarantino film and rushed over to rescue me, whipping off the tourniquet and professionally resolving the situation.

To be fair to Mary the whole experience was fairly painless, whether that is down to my heroically high pain threshold or more likely her accurate needle work, in truth the worst bit was removing the sticky tape holding the cannula in place. It took a few minutes for me to compose myself and exact my revenge upon Mary, this time with the close supervision of Dr Spike. All in all, we discussed a broad range of skills and left with a higher level of confidence and knowledge in being able to control a medical emergency.

And you can’t even see the blood on my black jeans.



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