A Doctors Thoughts on St. Helena
   - a series of medical anecdotes as published in the St. Helena News

St Helena is a little known island that found fame with the incarceration of Napoleon there, after the battle of Waterloo.  Many of his artefacts remain there, including his original tomb, from which he was later removed and transported back to France.  French visitors are not uncommon, researching his life.

In its early days St Helena was an important supply port for sailing ships passing around the Cape of Good Hope. This role largely disappeared with the opening of the Suez Canal, and the improved quality and range of more modern ships. During the Boer war, the island was used to house Boer prisoners of war-and a graveyard of those who died remains on the island.

A rugged island of just forty-eight square miles, St Helena today has a population of five and a half thousand people. At the time I was there - 1986 to 1988 - the remoteness brought many a challenge from a doctor's point of view, as there was usually no specialist at hand to pass patients on to in an emergency.  The RMS St Helena passed through every couple of months on her round trip from Avonmouth to Ascension Island, St Helena, Cape Town and back, and this was the only means of getting to or from the Island.

Usually there were three Doctors working together on the island and between us we dealt with whatever cropped up as best we could, from routine consultations to major operations and serious disease. Occasional extra expertise was provided by visiting medical specialists whose visits were usually arranged on an annual basis.

Today, another medical team will be carrying on the same work. I have since worked in other remote situations and have become aware of the on going efforts of Doctors and Nurses in other isolated areas all over the world, facing the same big challenges.