Old and bold ?

Crumblies on Ops.....

  • Bring maturity and experience

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Bring Werthers Originals and a smell of wee

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Bring me to despair

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Bring the Service into disrepute

    Votes: 0 0.0%

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Book Reviewer
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Surgeon joins army aged 56
3:51pm Wednesday 10th December 2008

When Prof Christopher Bulstrode inquired about joining the army there was laughter at the other end of the telephone.

Aged 56 he wanted to sign up at a time when others might be contemplating retirement.

But trauma is something that Prof Bulstrode knows a great deal about, after years of work in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s emergency department.

The army is desperately short of doctors and medics.

And it did not take them very long to recognise they had on the phone a man worth far more than his weight in gold — they had someone with the knowledge to save soldiers’ lives and treat the most severe of injuries.

Within a short time, he was leaving behind his work teaching medical students in the Oxford hospital’s busy accident and emergency department to learn some of the rudiments of army life at Sandhurst for his one-off tour of duty.

He said: “I found myself there with all these 20-year-olds on a course, learning to polish boots and dismantle a rifle. But I survived that.”

But there would be far harder challenges ahead once he began a tour of Afghanistan as a major in the Territorial Army in Helmand Province.

What was to have been a three-month stay was extended to nine months and, as well as treating casualties, his role was extended to include restructuring healthcare services in Helmand and assessing conditions in refugee camps.

His Afghanistan adventure was all down to his partner, the prominent medical educator Dr Victoria Hunt. Sensing his frustration with endless hospital committee meetings, she challenged him to find a new arena in which to practise medicine.

He said: “We were sitting having a glass of wine one evening and she told me I was becoming boring. So she dared me to join the TA. And nobody dares me to do anything.”

His first job as a doctor after studying medicine at Oxford had been working for Oxfam at a camp for Ethiopian refugees in Sudan.

Once in Afghanistan, the Oxford orthopaedic professor found himself working for three months in the comparatively humble position of emergency senior house officer.

But the experience of working under pressure as the casualties began coming into the new £10m field hospital at Camp Bastion, a giant fortress created in Central Helmand, served to renew his enthusiasm for clinical medicine.

The horrific sights he saw at Bastion continued to haunt his sleep, months after his return home to Stanton St John, near Oxford.

Now back at the John Radcliffe, he recalls an incident last Christmas when a young man arrived with both his legs and an arm blown off.

At one point, hearing a groan, he quickly rushed to the soldier’s bedside.

He said: “You know why he called out? It was to tell me he was angry because he’d spent £120 on a pair of trainers before he’d left home.

“Can you begin to imagine what it must have taken to make a joke under those circumstances, with his life changed forever?

“They are just incredible people.”

One ethical dilemma that he has continued to wrestle with is the extent to which priority should be given to British troops.

He said: “As doctors we are supposed to treat people equally, friend and foe.

“But inevitably there is only a limited amount of resource available and, when treating injuries, time is of the essence.”



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He may be 56 but he brought 30 years experience as a doctor, espeically in the area most needed, so the fact he is not a 25 year old thruster has nowt to do with it. For once it seems like MoD have got something right. Well done Prof.

p.s. I wonder what size the trainers are?
major bullstrode is top bloke. Very calm and methodical and a nice chap as well. what he doesnt know about A+E probably isnt worth knowing. i would quite happily deploy with him again.

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