Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Lest We Forget

Yesterday was remembrance Sunday, the day we remember those who have given their lives for their country in war, and as I am currently writing a medical romance partly set in Afghanistan I thought it would be appropriate to talk about advances in medicine that have come about as a direct consequence of treating the wounded from the battlefield.

In the first world war two women, Elsie Knocker, a nurse, and Marie Chisholm an eighteen year old from Scotland, stationed themselves at the front line in order to give soldiers first aid well in advance of them being taken to first aid posts, often going behind the front line to rescue the wounded, because Elsie in particular recognised the importance of those first few minutes of life saving treatment. They of course weren’t the only women risking their lives to care for casualties of war.

Plastic surgery also made huge advances when young pilots were admitted to hospital with horrific facial burns and in the second world war, antibiotics were used for the first time on a wide scale to treat infection, (before then they were deemed too expensive to be used widely), as well as blood transfusions, which were first used (with varying degrees of success) by the Americans in the First World War.

Today, in A & E departments, doctors are using the ‘Afganiscan’ to assess patients with multiple trauma, an innovation that came directly from the military hospitals in Afghanistan. Scientists have also developed a nanoscale biological coating for sponges that can be used to stop bleeding on the battlefield. They are now talking about the platinum ten minutes instead of the golden hour. If they can keep a wounded soldier alive long enough to get them to the military hospital there is now a hugely increased chance of saving their lives.

Of course we all wish that no soldier ever had to die, and we grieve for every young man and woman who has lost their life, but if anything good can be said to come out of a war, perhaps it is the advances in medical science that go on to save, and repair, lives that would otherwise have been lost. This is summed up for me in the quote, although I can’t tell you the source, ‘When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.’

Do you have any medical advances, not necessarily from the battlefield, that you would like to nominate as making the biggest difference today? To start with I guess I would have to nominate, antiseptic surgery, anaesthesia and public medicine.

Anne xx

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15 thoughts on “Lest We Forget”

    1. Hi FF,

      Not sure if everyone coming out of the army with a disability would agree with you! I do think however that we need in the UK at least to put much more resource into looking after our wounded soldiers and their families in the long term.

  1. I have one and I believe it was first championed by the lovely Flo Nightingale and has saved and continues to save countless lives every day all around the world both in war and in peace. Wash your hands!
    Simple but effective 🙂
    Have not of the Afghaniscan – interesting, thank you

    1. Yes. They let hand washing go a bit in hospitals in the UK and are back on it with a vengence. Recently rates in MRSA and C Diff, both major problems in UK hospitals, have plummeted.(Infection control nurses played a major part in this even if they do seem to be a little OTT in some aspects.) I think there was something to be said for the old style of nursing where the ward sister was responsible for the cleanliness of the ward. Apparently before Lister’s day lots of women died following childbirth in hospitals because the doctors were going straight from pms to see the women without changing their clothes or washing their hands! Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

  2. Hi Anne – Fantastic blog. Our country has the huge Wounded Warriar project in order to help those who would never have made it home from the battlefield without all of the amazing advances in medicine/surgery we now have.
    I think the thing that jumps out at me is the leaps and bounds in prosthetic devices which has taken place since so many men and women have lost legs in this war. As proof of the vast improvement over the old heavy and clumsy prosthetics, that incredible picture of the South African runner on his “blades” winning race after race, (to the point that other runners feel he has an unfair advantage) comes to mind and shows the incredible advances we’ve made with prosthetics because of war.

  3. Hi Lynne

    I’d love to know more about your Wounded Warrior project. I think the advances in surgery and prosthetics have been amazing. (Have you ever seen pictures of the wooden hands and legs they fitted soldiers with in the first world war? There is absolutely no comparison with what is available now.) I also watched a video where the surgeons repaired a badly damaged hand with pieces of his rib bones meaning that the soldier may get full use of his hand back. But rehab has also come on in leaps and bounds. I was reading something about Mirror therapy a form of therapy they are using to try and reduce phantom pains in amputees.

    I have also used made use of Medical Emergency Retrieval Teams (MERT) in my books. They are applying the same principles to big cities. In Glasgow we have a team on standby for serious accidents. My daughter, the medical student, also tells me that her hospital’s A & E department is set up to call a team of consultants simultaneously when they have a severe casualty. They all meet in the CT room and pool their expertise. This has also been taken from the military.

  4. Brilliant blog, Anne. I’ve just finished writing a book where the heroine has been a TA doctor in Camp Bastion, following the death of her husband out there (hero’s best friend), and I think the thing that’s come from this evil war for me is advances in major trauma treatment – speed, massive transfusion, use of tourniquets on the field, calling in the big guns right at the beginning – just basically throwing everything at the patient asap and not waiting on test results while the patient bleeds out. And then, having saved them, yes, without a doubt, the modern limbs are brilliant and so common that seeing men and women in pylon legs (ie not covered in ‘skin’) is now tragically commonplace and utterly unremarkable – and hence accepted without question. That’s another thing that could dubiously be considered progress, but the cost in human terms of that progress is overwhelmingly sad.
    Interestingly (because I’ve also written a book about an amputee some while ago and it’s a bit of a hobby horse of mine) Kate Hardy sent me a link to a fascinating site showing amazing filigree artificial legs and old redundant legs used as art in an exhibition – and no, I don’t have the link, I’m no way that organised, but she is and I bet she can find it. Kate?!!!

    Caroline x

  5. I love hearing about things like this, Anne. I am way out of high-powered medicine for a long time now and haveq learned some new things reading this. Thanks.

  6. Very interesting stuff- I’ve been away from hands on medicine for so long, but I love to hear about things like the Afghaniscan! Can I please put a shout in for antibiotics as having had a major impact on survival? (I know there’s lots of problems now- but millions have survived) Oh, and vaccinations -but I guess that’s covered in ‘public medicine.’

  7. Thanks to everyone for commenting. My book is set partly ten years in the past so I have to be careful to differentiate between what was available then and what is available now. And as you can see, it’s moved on so much.

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