When a healthcare temp agency contacted me saying they were looking for a doctor for a horse race my interest was aroused.
I have never worked as an emergency doctor on a racetrack let alone witness a horse race before. But when a healthcare temp agency contacted me saying they were looking for a doctor for a horse race my interest was aroused.
The race was conducted in a relatively remote place called Kirkistown, County Down, in Northern Ireland. Having been in Northern Ireland for only eight months, my knowledge of local routes was minimal. As the day approached, I was more apprehensive about getting there on time than the event itself. Although I have a navigation system in my car, it cannot be relied upon on local routes. So I downloaded a map and directions from google maps two days before the event and attempted to memorize the route. I also informed my medical insurance company about the event.
I was fully prepared for the event, or at least so I thought.
The weather forecast on the day of the event called for rain with winds. For good measure I packed my winter clothes and waterproof Wellington boots as well. Miraculously I did not lose my way and I reached there in good time. I was introduced to my colleague for the day, Jennifer, a veteran of these events. She also told me that horse racing runs in her family. The racing event itself is called Point to Point Steeplechase for amateur horses and attracts jockeys from all over Great Britain and Ireland.
The event comprised of six races with each race having 4 to 19 jockeys. The medical team consisted of two doctors, Jennifer and I, three ambulances fully equipped with emergency equipment and paramedical staff. One of the ambulances was a field ambulance stationed at the center of the racetrack while the other two waited off the field. There was also a medical cabin where the injured jockeys are supposed to come after a fall for check up, but it turned out up that we kept chasing them after each race to make sure they were fit. Our duties as emergency doctors were to provide first aid to any injured jockeys, assess their fitness to race and if the injury was serious, then to refer them to the hospital. Between the two of us we took turns inside the field ambulance and manning the medical cabin.
It was a tense watching all the horses lining up for the start of the first race. The horses cleared the first three fences without any falls. At the fourth fence, there was a fall, and the jockey did not get up immediately. He rose soon, but as he walked toward the ambulance I could see that he was bleeding from his nose.
My first patient for the day.
He only had minor nosebleed and was adjudged fit to race; he actually went on to win the third race of the day.
The fifth race was the biggest race of the evening with 19 participants. It was my turn again in the field ambulance, but I was more excited than tense by this time. Two jockeys fell at the third fence, but got up immediately. There were two more falls during the race, but the jockeys sustained only minor injuries. The time seemed to flow and even before I realized it, the last race was over.
All in all, the whole event turned out to be quite an enjoyable experience.
I definitely learned something after seeing the falls of the jockeys and horses at close range. I realized just how easy it is for them to incur serious injuries and how important it is have medical help close at hand. The next time I see an injured jockey in a hospital I can see myself visualizing the whole event and how the injury might have occurred.
Ravikanth Pagoti is an Indian physician working in Ireland. We invite you to share interesting or amusing anecdotes from your professional life with Little India readers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org