Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Great War and M.A.S.H.

I am writing a piece for a pamphlet to be published, which highlights the involvement of Sheffield medics in World War One. The doctor who asked me to do this, one of a team, is a retired Sheffield physician. He just happened to be my consultant during my first house job after qualification from medical school in Sheffield in 1983. He got in touch with me after reading a piece published in the Sunday Telegraph that highlighted the early attempts at surgery on cardiac injuries in 1916. I was closely involved in the story, which featured a soldier from Sheffield. One of the important sources of information for the story was a paper published in the Journal of the RAMC ( Royal Army Medical Corps) in 1918 by the surgeons involved. They describe the clinical course of the soldier in great detail, from the moment he was admitted to hospital in Malta to the day he died of mediastinitis, a frequently fatal complication of a deep sternal wound infection. The findings at post mortem are also extensively described.The details in this  published paper are quite extraordinary and made me think of how this soldier would have been managed in wars which have occurred since that great conflagration of 1914-
Coincidentally I watched a few episodes of MASH on a transatlantic flight recently - I had forgotten what a good programme it was, with servings in equal measure of pathos and feel good factor. What with all the wars British and American forces have been involved in since the Korean War, maybe a new MASH like series needs to be produced.