My stomach is not exactly a very cooperative partner whenever an examination is immenient. It apparently chooses to seize up into a tightly-knotted bunch, which of course does not make breakfast any easier to go down. I didn't take any on the day of my battalion's ATEC stage one. That this is "paper one" of the finals for my unit made my throat scratchy, and I came down with bouts of coughing fits. Then again, it might be a cold, since I was wringing nasal discharge from my nose every few minutes, topping off each round with a snort, which I hoped would contain the worst until I could sneak into the bathroom.
The testers evaluate only a handpicked few from each platoon, and these lucky people are tested on one expertise out of the vast myraid of skills organic to the platoon.
None of the commanders escaped the gaze of the ATEC evaluators. Some were chosen for the thermal imager test, some had to go to Khatib Camp to be tested upon their directing of artillery fire.
Initially, when the name list for the tests first arrived, I had thought that everybody would be examined in one field or the other. As luck would have it, the rest of the platoon escaped unscathed, with the exclusion of five team signallers, whom were chosen to be tested upon their medical skills.
I pondered the irony for a moment, while the Platoon Sergeant shook his head with a smile and wished us luck.
The trouble was, I was not rather profecient with the entire test itself, since all my medical lessons in camp have revolved almost solely around the IV test. For a mere component of the evaluation, it was given a disproportionate amount of attention. Meanwhile, I struggled to recall that lesson far too long ago, and conclusively drew up a total blank. I knew that I had to rely upon the single practice session the day before the evaluation to get things up to scratch. That I could only practice one medical emergency (which included one haemohrrage and fracture in each scenario) at one single go, and the variations of the haemohrrages and fractures further complicated things. Without a proper re-learning of the entire lesson of haemohrrages and fractures, I was stuck with the scenarios that I have already practiced. I was pretty rueful that we didn't have time to re-do that lesson. The rest of the day before the test was spent going through the test format, after which the 5 of us had a choice pick of victims to do some needle poking practice. I immediately snagged the buddy who sleeps next to me, feeling confident. What are the chances that I miss his fat veins?
It turned out that I really messed up. Not only was I terribly off the mark, the catether was also slightly kinked when I drew it out.
"Oops..." I said.
The Senior Medic came around, took a nonchalant look at the blood on the newspaper (it is easier to throw newspapers than to disinfect the floor) and promptly droned urgently, "Go and take another shot at him. Go! Go! Go!" At which I could only give an apologetic shrug.
In the end, it took the Senior Medic's personal advice that I managed to successfully poke the other guy sleeping next to me. As he laid there with the arm outstreched, and I knelt there confounded by his invisible veins, the Senior Medic came around and guided my shaky hand (and needle) smoothly into the bloodstream.
In case you were wondering why I was bantering so much about the day before the test, when I actually started off with the day of the test itself, I ask that you bear with me. The links become apparent after it is revealed.
But back to the test itself. That morning, after the breakfast that I didnt eat, the 5 of us trudged beary-eyed into the medical centre for a crash lesson. With just 1.5 hours to the test, we were really hemming it in on a razor thin line.
The Senior Medic came back with some drinks a while later. To bribe you guys into doing well, he said. His eyebrows were furrowed into a temporary cast mold as we laughed at his joke.
Promptly, the examiners arrived at 8.30 and proceeded to hustle everybody out of the place. Something about not letting us have a sneak preview. The first was escorted into the hall, leaving 4 of us to do the handwringing routine, along with a few other medics unfortunate enough to get chosen for the same test.
The Boss came and gave a few words of encouragement, before floating off to another venue to dish out more of his canned words to others taking the other tests.
It was 11 when I finally got called up. At that point, I was already sick of the worrying (not to mention the frequent trips to drain the dripping nose), and went into the room with my guard down.
The lady gave me a once over, and decided that she didn't like me. Her frown told me so. I then proceeded to blotch my fractures and haemohrrages in a spectecular blaze of glory. She gave an audible sigh of frustration, and proceeded to re-tie the dressings with such a medical profeciency that I couldn't even recognise it from my lessons. I then realised that I was being tested by a civilian expert with the utmost regard for standards. I knew then that I had flunked my first two tests. At least she was pleasant enough to inform me that I had at least met her requirements for a pass.
My heart sank, since my next test would be on my IV skills, something that I was apprehensive about, since I had flunked so may times before. With no hope of a break in my failing spree, I sat there stoned. I wasn't even thinking about anything. Then my partner appeared.
"How's your veins?" he asked.
"Pretty fat, but they like to run, so you've gotta be careful when you stick them in. How's yours?"
When it came to be my turn to IV my partner, I took a long time to gather the stuff. The station tester smiled encouragingly at me as I fumbled with the pouches. Another shot consipring looks at me. I had to be careful. I took my partner's hand and examined it for the most obvious target for the needle, and the second tester immediately came up to me.
"Time starts the moment you check for the veins."
The other tester disagreed, an undercurrent of conflict passed between them.
"Er... Never mind that. I can start now." I cut in sharply.
And it went even smoother than I thought. The needle found its mark, and I was able to feed my partner some of the salt solution through his arm, gaining a satisfactory comment from the first tester.
The final test was on CPR, a dead gift, since I had done it so many times previous.
The Senior Medic was astonished when he heard how four of us managed to succeed in our IV test on the first try. He beamed so much that he called the company line up to spread the news. Which naturally made us feel really great. He didn't care that most of us only managed a pass mark for our fractures and haemohrrages. Which made me relieved.
The final results are not out yet, but it is the end of ATEC stage one.
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