Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century
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Little more than one hundred years ago, maps of the world still boasted white space: places where no human had ever trod. Within a few short decades the most hostile of the world’s environments had all been conquered. Likewise, in the twentieth century, medicine transformed human life. Doctors took what was routinely fatal and made it survivable. As modernity brought us ever more into different kinds of extremis, doctors pushed the bounds of medical advances and human endurance. Extreme exploration challenged the body in ways that only the vanguard of science could answer. Doctors, scientists, and explorers all share a defining trait: they push on in the face of grim odds. Because of their extreme exploration we not only understand our physiology better; we have also made enormous strides in the science of healing.
Drawing on his own experience as an anesthesiologist, intensive care expert, and NASA adviser, Dr. Kevin Fong examines how cuttingedge medicine pushes the envelope of human survival by studying the human body’s response when tested by physical extremes. Extreme Medicine explores different limits of endurance and the lens each offers on one of the systems of the body. The challenges of Arctic exploration created opportunities for breakthroughs in open heart surgery; battlefield doctors pioneered techniques for skin grafts, heart surgery, and trauma care; underwater and outer space exploration have revolutionized our understanding of breathing, gravity, and much more. Avant-garde medicine is fundamentally changing our ideas about the nature of life and death.
Through astonishing accounts of extraordinary events and pioneering medicine, Fong illustrates the sheer audacity of medical practice at extreme limits, where human life is balanced on a knife’s edge. Extreme Medicine is a gripping debut about the science of healing, but also about exploration in its broadest sense—and about how, by probing the very limits of our biology, we may ultimately return with a better appreciation of how our bodies work, of what life is, and what it means to be human.
the vain hope that this would somehow quell the fire. But the flames only grew fiercer, wrapping round his feet and climbing to reach his shoulders. Plywood and fabric burst rapidly into flames around him, accelerated by fuel from the breached tanks. In a few short seconds, the center of Gleave’s cockpit had become the head of a blowtorch. The aluminum sheet in which the dials of his control panel were set began to melt. But he was far too high to ditch the aircraft; there was nothing he could do
dying, slowly succumbing to hypothermia in a tent pitched on the wastelands of the Ross Ice Shelf, full of the weary knowledge that he was not the first explorer to reach the South Pole—only the first to have lost an entire expeditionary party doing so. It is 1912. Antarctica is as inaccessible as it is fraught with risk; and that, of course, is its attraction, leading men to pit themselves and their lives against its challenges. Having been beaten to the pole by Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian
long-stay mission architectures for Mars. For the short-stay missions, crews would travel for close to nine months to get to Mars. But once there they could then take advantage of an early opportunity to return to Earth, which would arise between thirty and ninety days after their arrival. This, after having spent close to nine months in flight, would be like flying from London to New York, milling around in the gift shop at JFK for an hour, and then flying straight home. But it has the
leaving him unsteady. And the bones on which his flesh and muscle are hung are less dense, more prone to fracture when exposed to sudden force. This is the physiology of great age, and the frailty that accompanies it is undeniable. But for all of the above, at 103 Mr. Hudson continues much as he must have done for most of his life. He is the oldest member of his golf course and a man who, until a month ago, still drove a car. — IT IS ENTROPY THAT WE ARE up against here. Entropy is
line, 184–86 artificial life support in, 186, 191, 193 Assured Crew Return Vehicle, 196 deep-space maneuvers, 225 Enterprise, 180, 195 exploration of, 207 frontier of, 186–90 Mars, see Mars medical emergency in, 194–95, 196 mishaps in, 207 and NASA training, 210, 215–17 and nuclear arms race, 254 orbital flight, 207, 212–13 radiation hazards in, 227, 228 and return to Earth, 205–7, 208, 223–24 solar flares, 227–29 X-38, 195–96