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ICU Ward Sister, Pamela Quirk
My TT: The Nurse
Noble's Hospital Intensive Care Unit Ward Sister, Pamela Quirk has experienced TT Week, from a medical point of view, since she was seventeen. Here, she describes her thoughts on The Races.
I love the TT. Some people might find that hard to understand, bearing in mind I see what the effects can be. But I just love the atmosphere.
Normally, I work nights but in TT Week, I try to do days so I can have some time to see the Races myself.
When the weather’s good, you can be lying out in the sun with friends, up at Creg ny Baa, listening to the radio commentary, smelling the air - you could be somewhere foreign.
But when I hear the Rescue Helicopter and see the Roads Closed car going through, I think, “I wonder what’s going to be waiting for me when I go into work tomorrow?”
People imagine ITU must be chock-a-block in TT Week but it depends on the year. Unfortunately, a lot of riders are going so fast when they crash that they never make it in to us.
Death is a better option than the state they can be left in, sometimes.
The really busy time is the weeks leading up to TT when we’re ordering our supplies, making sure everyone’s fully trained on head injuries, spinal injuries, inserting chest drains.
We don’t wish any ill to the riders but there’s always a feeling of excitement, wondering what will come through the door.
It helps if we know where someone came off. You have more idea of the speed they were going and how bad the injuries are likely to be. It might’ve been on a straight at full speed, with stone walls and houses on either side of them when they were spat off or it might’ve been going round the corner at the Creg, where they’ve more likely to slide off.
We’re very stubborn in ITU. We’ll always log roll riders, which means we’ll avoid twisting their spine - and even if we get a message that the spine is OK, we’ll continue to log roll until we’re fully aware of all their injuries and have seen the CAT scans ourselves.
Initially, we’re busy making sure they’re pain-free, ventilated, replacing blood products, giving antibiotics and fluids.
It can be difficult with foreign riders. Are they in pain? What kind of pain? How much pain?
Some cultures express pain quite vociferously, even if it’s only slight pain whereas others can become more quiet and withdrawn if they’re in a lot of pain.
You feel inadequate because you can’t speak their language. But we have doctors from all over the world at Noble’s, so we’ll get them or some of the medical secretaries or an interpreter in.
Some people are very negative about the TT. They seem to think that the riders have brought their injuries on themselves but I don’t feel any different towards them than if they’d had a car crash.
My attitude is, they’re going to race anyway and death is always a possibility. They know that. You can’t stop them. But you can fight to try to keep them alive after an accident.
Nick Crowe and Darre Hope, Southern 100
Do I get emotionally involved? I don’t think you can help it, really. You don’t know them to start off with and they’re not your best friends but you work so hard to try to help them survive.
I feel quite sad if we lose a patient. Even after all these years of nursing, there are some deaths I just can’t get my head around.
If someone comes in and they’re really mashed up, they look like someone who’s going to die. But with the young lads who come in, sometimes there’s not a cut on them.
You know they’ve battered their brains so much, they’re just not going to survive but it just doesn’t seem fair, somehow.
I took a body down to the mortuary one year, opened this one big door and got a sight of other bodies in there. There was one young chap who’d been racing and he’d broken his neck.
His number was up, I suppose – but he just looked like he was asleep.
I just hope that this year, of all years, all road users will be more conscious of the dangers of the roads because accidents can happen in a split second.
But having said all that, I still wait the whole year for the TT to come round. Maybe it’s because my mum used to have a B&B and we’d look forward to the visitors coming back every year.
It always seemed to be sunny, there was always so much fun and at the end of TT, when they’d all gone home, the house seemed so empty; we’d go through a kind of grieving process.
(Photograph kind courtesy of Ron Clarke, Manx Racing Photography)
last updated: 11/06/2008 at 15:25
Have Your Say
Do you agree with Pamela? If riders want to race, should we allow them? Or should we ban The Races in order to preserve lives?
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