Sunday, March 20, 2011

Space Doctor

Space Doctor is a novel by Lee Correy published as a Del rey book by Ballantine Books in 1981. It's the story of the first solar energy array in space done as an industrial project, no different from other industrial projects like the South American oil pipe lines.  What's amazing about this story is that it begins with a country doctor, friend of the magnate entrepreneur whose privately developing the overall project.  The doctor is approached as a friend to build and man the first industrial space hospital with paradmedics and nurses for the high man power site.  I was fascinated as a doctor reading this book having not thought of so many of the obvious problems that can arise in 'space medicine'.  In an emergency in weightlessness the doctor can't get the bubbles out of the syringe, just for an example.  When he goes to intubate the patient, they fly in opposite directions.  To get to an emergency industrial explosion site the paramedics have to go through each of the locks in the complex all resulting in too much time lost to save the lives of the welders.  The story is written as fiction and moves like episodes of ER.  It's the backdrop to the exciting reading that's fascinating and so realistic. I kept thinking that this should be on the required reading list for every medical student, nurse and paramedic today even though it was written thirty years ago. All that's somewhat outdated are the medications used. Otherwise the book is a beginner's guide to frontier medicine at it's finest. Nothing in Star Trek or Star Wars came close to addressing the essence of the industrial and occupational medicine considerations as well as this book does.  Not surprisingly Lee Correy is the pseudonym for G. Harry Stine, a rocket pioneer, futurist and expert on space industrialization. Having read some of the research papers from NASA by psychiatrists and psychologists regarding colour and sound I was really impressed to read these very ideas being addressed in the 'wardroom" of this first 'space hospital'.  It's a great story but it also raises all the issues doctors will have to contend with when doing surgery, deliveries, and handling emergencies in space.  I enjoyed to the conflict with beaurocrats, regulators, the struggles with project finance, the problems arising from design errors.  All of it was just fascinating stuff with the background of space emergencies and tight quarter romance.

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