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DMLS ’19 experience

When I saw the announcement of the 2nd edition Dive and Marine Life Support (DMLS) last summer, I was immediately interested. In sunny Cape Verde on a four-master sailing boat for diving, sailing and at the same time learning about maritime medicine and diving medicine for one full week in November seemed to me as the ideal combination. I didn’t hesitate and signed up. A decision that I do not regret!

On November 2nd, 25 motivated doctors boarded the Santa Maria Manuela, a beautiful Portuguese tall ship from São Vicente. We were welcomed with a drink by the course organisation and the ship’s crew. The participants were doctors from different specialities with multiple nationalities. Some already had experience as a doctor on a ship, others with plans to someday work as a ship’s doctor.

The course had a program starting at 8 a.m. and consisted of lectures, workshops, scenario training sessions, diving sessions and relaxed coffee moments. Due to the not always punctual local diving schools (‘this is Africa’), the schedule often changed. Massive seasickness on the sailing day from São Nicolao to Sal was no problem for the creative organisation, who had to adjust the planning once more. Around 11 p.m. that evening we were still puzzling along with exciting “cruise ship case studies” by ship doctor Mark Frederikse.

I didn’t mind that the course required some flexibility. After all, you didn’t have your agenda, and there was a perfect vibe in the group from the start. I hardly missed proper access tot wifi.

During the dives at various islands, we saw turtles, stingrays and a giant nurse shark. The non-divers had the opportunity to snorkel, to kayak, do supping or relax on the deck. The different group scenario training sessions were an excellent addition to the lectures. Diving accidents and all kinds of possible medical problems on board were discussed. We learned how to initiate an evacuation for a patient that you had just stabilised yourself. The diverse workshops focused on emergencies such as “man overboard” or the practical “abandon ship”. These workshops were useful and also fun to practice with each other.

At the end of the day, when lessons and exercises finished, there was time for drinks, and inspiring travel stories were shared. At the end of the week, participants organised a pub quiz and also an “amateur variety show”, where several colleagues appeared to have hidden musical talents. We enjoyed dancing on the deck until the early hours.

The final afternoon included a practical exam. Luckily everyone passed! The neurologist who arranged a drill, during a case study, to relieve an epidural hematoma of his lotus patient deserves a special mention.

Saturday, November 9th, was the last morning on the boat and therefore the end of the first DMLS tall ship edition. The last pills of cinnarizine (for prevention of seasickness) were taken and the final lecture about ‘hyperbaric medicine’ was given. We received our certificates and said goodbye to the crew.  We’ve learned a lot and laughed a lot. It was a unique and inspiring week that I will not forget!

Thanks to the organising committee: Wouter Jetten, Mark Frederikse, Leonieke Vlaanderen and Jacco Veldhuysen!

Written by Elise Tromp