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Book Review

‘Extreme Medicine’


bookCourtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Harriet Leitch

Penguin Press

Feb. 6, 2014

Hardcover $27.95


294 Pages

The book opens with the death of Robert Scott on his expedition to the South Pole. The cause of his death was hypothermia. The body’s physiologic changes during hypothermia were better understood by the time a woman is submerged in icy water for 40 minutes and she is revived after two hours of deep hypothermia. These experiences are part of the medical advancements that allowed for the deliberate induction of “hypothermic arrest” in order to extend the time available for complex, life-saving surgical operations. Dr. Fong uses this as his introduction to the medical discoveries made during the 20th century and their application in modern medicine.

During World War II, many airmen were grievously burned in airplane crashes. Revolutionary techniques for repairing burned flesh were developed and applied. This and the discovery of antibiotics were significant in the advancement of reconstructive plastic surgery, which today allows for full facial implants on severely disfigured patients.

A tragic auto accident killed part of a doctor’s family, seriously injuring him and his son and sending the doctor on a desperate search for care in a rural area. Finding emergency care to be almost non-existent, this doctor went on to develop basic trauma care, the basis for the procedures in use today.

Dr. Fong, a physician with a background in astrophysics, engineering, and aerospace medicine, is the founder of the Centre for Altitude, Space, and Extreme Environment Medicine. His book is a wonderful, enlightening read. CV

Harriet Leitch retired to enjoy her grandchildren, garden, dogs, flute and to return to her love of books.

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