London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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City of London 1958

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Port of London]

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to Thames Ditton. The skipper had injured his arm by allowing it to be caught between his own
yacht and the barge on to which he was trying to put a rope. Rough examination showed probable
fracture of the right ulna and radius. First-aid measures were carried out and the man transferred
to the "Howard Deighton".
Meanwhile, radio-telephone messages were passed to the Hulk "Hygeia" requesting an
ambulance and also asking the P.L.A. to send someone down to see to the proper mooring of the
yacht as the only person now on board was a young boy. The patient was then taken to Terrace
Pier, Gravesend, where an ambulance was waiting to take the man to hospital.
Dr. Jones in his report says "This case was a perfect example of the usefulness of the new
radio-telephone sets, not only in arranging for the care of the patient but also for the care of
his boat".
Radio requests for medical advice
(1) m.v. "Seriality". At 09.00 hours on 15th October 1958, Dr. J.A. Jones received a radiotelephone
request (via North Foreland) from the Master of the m.v. "Seriality" for medical advice.
The cabin boy had developed 'sickness' during the night and at the time of the request had a
temperature of 103° and pulse 100. Skin hot and dry. Face flushed. Complaining of general
aches and pains. Vomited once. Sore throat. Throat inflamed and small 'ulcers present.
From this description Dr. Jones made a diagnosis of acute follicular tonsillitis. However,
as the ship was at the time only ten miles from Dover and as the Master was most anxious to
avoid any risk to the patient, Dr. Jones advised him to land the boy at Dover.
At the Master's request Dr. Jones telephoned the Owners and they agreed to telephone their
Dover Agent and ask him to make all arrangements for meeting the ship and arranging for the boy
to be admitted to hospital.
(2) m.v. "Saimaa". At 17.30 hours on the 19th October 1958, the North Foreland W/T Station
rang up the Hulk "Hygeia" to ask for advice on a case suspected to be suffering from appendicitis
on the Finnish m.v. "Saimaa". The patient had had severe abdominal pain for 4% hours,
severe vomiting and high temperature. This was obviously an acute case.
The ship was on passage through the Channel to Casablanca and was at the time in question
some seven miles off Dungeness. Dr. Dilwyn T. Jones, the Boarding Medical Officer on duty,
advised the ship to put back to Folkestone immediately and in the meantime to apply the appropriate
first-aid measures.
Dr. Jones obtained the expected time of arrival of the ship at Folkestone and passed the
information to Lloyds' Agent at Dover. Lloyds' Agent seemed to think, however, that it would be
better if the ship put in at Dover and he agreed to contact the ship to this effect and to make all
necessary arrangements for an ambulance to meet the ship.
Dr. Hugh Willoughby, Deputy Medical Officer, has given an account of an incident during a
"quiet Sunday afternoon" at Gravesend:
"At 15.00 hours there was violent blowing of "Q" by at least two tugs and a pilot cutter
and it appeared obvious that an incident had occurred on one of four tugs on the lower tier off
the Terrace Pier.
A passing Pilot Cutter stopped for me to jump on board — a time saving factor compared
with casting off the "Howard Deighton" — and rapidly put me on board the s.t. "Sun XIX"
between which vessel and her neighbour a small sailing yacht had missed stays and got wedged.
The occupants, a man and two women, were got out of the submerged craft by the greatest
of good luck, but were as near death from drowning as any I have seen. One of the women was
breathing but the other woman and the man were blue and pulseless.
In less time than it takes to write down, teams from the tug's crew got on to artific ial
respiration under my direction and after 40 minutes of very hard work, relieving the teams at
5 minute intervals, signs of life were restored in the man and the second woman and eventually
consciousness was restored. I have never seen two such apparently dead people return to life
from near drowning.
The main difficulty was to get the volunteer resuscitators to work slowly and get sufficient
air entry with each 'stroke' — a matter which with three lives at stake required my dodging
from one to the other ! Eventually all three vomited copiously and got rid of not only
gallons of Thames water, but also the remains of a substantial lunch!
I cannot speak too highly of the Master of the "Sun XIX" and his men without whose
untiring efforts it would have meant certain death to two at least of the victims.
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