ON the face of it, the medics of the First World War could not be farther removed from the modern day ‘da Vinci’ surgeons.
Rewind a century and the image of doctors, nurses, orderlies, stretcher-bearers and chaplains battling against the tide of 70,000 wounded and dying soldiers who were ferried back to Sheffield for treatment is beyond comprehension. Battlefield medics conjure up notions of frantically tied tourniquets applied in the hope of preserving life or limiting damage, where possible, of course. Those people will have been well-trained in their disciplines, but had you suggested using robotic arms to complete life-saving surgery I rather think one would be whisked off in a straightjacket. But that is exactly what is happening at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital: a £1.8m robotic surgery system called da Vinci is the one wielding the surgical scalpel, with ten times the accuracy of the human eye. Surgical procedures that would once have been so invasive they would have rendered one prostrate for weeks are being done one day, and the patient walking from the hospital the very next day. But whilst my initial thought was quite how far apart these worlds are, it’s not quite as simple as the sublime and ridiculous. In fact, there is one core trait that runs through the ages in the medical profession and that is bonafide heroism. Whether you’re the person operating a mechanical arms or one of the various men and women who did their duty at all levels of care during The Great War, one thing is for certain – we’re eternally grateful to you.