FREC / MIRA Level 3 Training by IQARUS

Tim Ansell and tarantula undergoing training

My new friend ‘650S’. In honour of the McLaren Spider of the same name

An Englishman, a Welshman and a Scotsman walk into a bar

I’d been looking for a while for an excellent first aid course which would focus on dealing with medical problems in areas far from hospitals or clinics, so as to be better prepared for my travels in Africa, and a chance meeting in Dubai earlier in the year led to my finding just that. I had bumped into Dai Jones during a night out with a Scottish friend in February, and when he heard me talking about my plans, he introduced himself and explained that he had been the medical advisor on the “Long Way Down” video featuring Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor. As a consequence he had good knowledge of the region, useful contacts, and a lot of advice he could give me. A few days later he came round to my office to discuss my adventure in more detail and I learned that the company he works for, IQARUS, regularly runs training courses for expedition medics, for journalists heading to hostile areas, for people working offshore, and many others.

First Response Emergency Care / Medicine In Remote Areas     Level 3

The ongoing delay to my departure from the UAE (there is, finally, light at the end of the tunnel but I’ll write about that in more detail in a later post) meant that I was still in Dubai over the summer, so I made a fairly late decision to attend their FREC / MIRA Level 3 course in the UK in August, though I took some convincing by Dai and a number of his colleagues since I was not at all sure I could cope. IQARUS’ own website describes the course as an “industry-leading programme specifically designed for medical practitioners operating in challenging environments.” which will “challenge the most seasoned remote/hostile environment/expedition medic. Students who pass the course will leave with updated and new skills as well as 2 accredited certificates from QUALSAFE and the ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS EDINBURGH respectively. The course has been designed by Industry and Special-Forces veterans”.

Perfect then, for a non medically trained guy who doesn’t like to watch ‘Casualty’ in case they cut someone open!!

See the IQARUS video below to give you an idea of what it was I signed up for.

Who dares, wins

So as I walked into IQARUS’ training centre in Hereford (their staff are all former Special Forces medics – there’s a reason they’re in Hereford….)  I was very nervous to say the least. Little did I know that just four hours later I’d be performing an emergency tracheostomy – I felt pretty queasy at first, thought I might be going to throw up as I watched the demonstration, then remembered I was surrounded by ex military guys from the world’s most elite fighting regiment and figured I’d better man up! Getting that operation right first time certainly boosted my confidence and over the course of the five days I learned, and put into practice,  more about remote medicine and patient care than I could ever have imagined possible. The list below shows just SOME of the topics we covered – the amount of coursework (and revision at night, and in the early mornings before going to the training centre) was quite incredible.

– Roles/Responsibilities of the remote medic
– Catastrophic haemorrhage management
– Advanced airway management including surgical airways
– Chest injury management
– Shock management including sternal intra-osseous access
– Management of fractures/dislocations/sprains/strains
– Minor injury management
– Intermediate life support of adult/paediatric/infant/third trimester pregnant patients
– Altitude and Polar medicine
– Jungle and Desert medicine
– Poisons
– Burns & scalds
– Remote pharmacology
– Triage and mass casualty incidents in the remote setting
– Prolonged fieldcare
– Bites & stings (with industry experts and live specimens)
– The most immersive moulages currently available in the UK

The ‘moulages’ are realistic training exercises carried out in the “High Street” which is within the IQARUS’ facility (see my video) and also in the immersive suites which simulate desert, arctic and jungle environments. This means I was dealing with situations not in a nice clean, air conditioned training office, but on rough, sandy ground, or on the jungle floor with a river running nearby for example, forcing me to deal with environmental risks and problems, as well as the patient’s medical condition and safety.

Testing, testing, 1,2,3

There were also four written tests to complete and on the last day, another moulage, which was evaluated to ensure I was putting into practice what I had learned. I had signed up for the course with a view to simply being a little better prepared in Africa, but I have to be honest and say that the relief, and feeling of achievement, when I was told that I had passed the course, was quite immense. I found the whole thing very challenging, but deeply rewarding, and I would now have a great deal more confidence in being able to cope – and offer genuinely useful assistance – if confronted by a medical emergency or road traffic accident for example.

If, as I did, you believe you would benefit from rather more advanced training than your average one day first aid course, I cannot recommend the training offered by IQARUS highly enough. I consider the money I spent on the course, the flight back to the UK and the local accommodation, to be exceptionally well spent, a genuine investment in my own well being and safety, and that of others around me.

The video below, other than the intro, was recorded just minutes after I had completed the course. I don’t think I realised just how excited and ‘pumped up’ I was at the time, so I apologise in advance for my motor mouth, especially during the first interview with Andy Fraser, who doesn’t get a word in for several minutes. Sorry Andy!