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April 20, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Lone doctor challenged on polar trek

DR Sun Fukang just finished a very tight schedule, performing more than 500 medical services on about 30 diseases in 182 days.

He saved the life of an Australian and participated in a group diagnosis with foreign doctors for a Chinese with serious trauma.

He did it all at an unusual workplace: China's 26th Antarctic expedition.

Sun, a urologist at Ruijin Hospital, was the only doctor on Xuelong, China's only icebreaker. He told Shanghai Daily yesterday about his experiences after returning from the expedition on April 10.

"I traveled with Xuelong for 32,000 sea miles ... including three countries and several scientific stations in the polar region," Sun said. "This was such a special experience for me."

After working at Ruijin for nearly two decades, Sun volunteered last year to be an on-board doctor for the Antarctica trip.

"A journey to the Antarctica was so attractive that I just couldn't resist it," said Sun, adding that he had strong support from the family.

To prepare, Sun made a medical database for each person on board, carefully noting every one's disease history and any other relevant details.

"But I never expected so many accidents and difficulties," he said.

Without so much as an X-ray machine on the ship, Sun had to diagnose and treat all kinds of sicknesses, from toothache to heart attack, through observation of symptoms.

On March 5, an Australian scientific staffer was sent by a station at the South Pole to Xuelong for a ride to a hospital in Perth, Australia, after suffering severe pains for five days from kidney stones.

"He was in serious condition," Sun said.

Sun gave therapy for the patient on board to stabilize his condition.

"After checking his situation, I decided to treat him with both Western painkillers and Chinese herbal tea, which was at first refused by the patient out of doubt," said Sun, who then persuaded the patient by his professional knowledge and kindness.

Enduring nausea from seasickness, Sun went to visit the patient three times a day, checking his physical symptoms and chatting with him.

Seven days later, the patient was free from the serious pain. "He was so thrilled that he hugged and thanked me again and again," Sun recalled with a gratified smile, "We've become great friends now and he even asked me for the flag of my hospital as a souvenir."

It was one emergency among many. "In addition to physical sickness, mental sickness was another big problem," Sun said.

Homesickness, seasickness, loneliness, stormy waves and restless jolts turned many cheerful people into depressed or even desperate weepers, he said.

Sun said the expedition taught him invaluable lessons. "Nothing is more valuable than people's life," said Sun.

"Making people healthy mentally and physically is my job," he said.


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