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Che Lu, a member of the alpine ski medical team for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, shared her unique experience of serving the global event in an interview with China Daily.
Here are the excerpts.
Che Lu watches the athletes in action at the National Alpine Ski Center in Yanqing district of Beijing. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Q: Who are the members of the alpine ski medical team?
Che Lu: China's alpine ski medical team for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics is made up of 37 ski doctors who spent four years preparing for this international sport event.
They are all healthcare professionals who know how to ski and were recruited into the team after undergoing qualification tests based on their skiing, English communication as well as trauma life support skills.
Since there aren't that many Chinese with experience of serving international alpine ski events, 12 foreign doctors joined us to provide medical service during the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Most of them are from European countries where alpine ski has enjoyed a longer history.
Together with snow patrollers, ski doctors, from home and abroad, provide medical service at the National Alpine Ski Center (Yanqing competition zone).
Q: Can you give a brief introduction of alpine skiing?
Che Lu: Alpine skiing is one of the flagship events at the Winter Olympics. It is one of the most physically demanding sports during which athletes race down the mountain with speed reaching up to 150km/h, while navigating a winding course full of sharp turns and soaring jumps.
Any mishap could be devastating. Injuries during the race vary from a sprain to traumatic head injury or massive bleeding.
Para alpine skiing is even more challenging. Para alpine racer can be categorized as VI (visual impairment), sitting or standing.
For the visually impaired athletes, racing the mountain at a speed of around 100km/h with only the sound of their guide to follow is unimaginable.
Che Lu is ready to serve at the starting point of the course. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Q: What makes your job difficult?
Che Lu: Alpine ski is not a sport for the faint-hearted. The 2022 Winter Olympics witnessed a total of eight major injuries in alpine ski events, including three cases that required immediate surgical interventions.
It is even more dangerous for Para athletes. Unlike able-bodied athletes who are at prime of life without any medical condition to begin with, illness is common among Para athletes, mostly due to infections (respiratory, skin, or urinary tract). Therefore, we must be fully prepared and deliver our best effort to provide a safe racing environment.
We prepared a 15kg trauma bag to carry the basic life-saving equipment, including airway support equipment, splints, and oxygen tank. During rescue, time is everything. We need to get to the injured racer through steep and icy terrain, and give rapid assessment and basic treatments such as analgesia and splinting before our fingers lose dexterity in the cold weather.
Then if considered necessary, the injured racer will be transferred through toboggan or rescue helicopter. All these movements are ideally to be finished within 15 minutes.
When your "office" is located on steep slope with an average temperature of minus 20 C and strong wind is blowing into your face, it is surely not a comfortable environment.
However, knowing that solid medical service is the cornerstone of Winter Olympic and Paralympic motivates me to do my best when athletes standing at the top of the mountain are about to race down.
A Para athlete is about to dive down the steep slope at the National Alpine Ski Center. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Q: What is your overall impression of serving Beijing 2022?
Che Lu: I feel very honored to be part of the medical service for Beijing 2022 and I believe my teammates feel the same. Although getting injured is an unfortunate incident for the athletes, hopefully our service reassurances them that they will be back in action soon even if they do get injured.
About the interviewee
Che Lu is a doctor from the anesthesiology department of Peking Union Medical College Hospital.