site.btaDay 108: Sailing on RSV 421 Taught Me Patience, says Dr. Petko Ginev
"I learned to be patient, which I believe will be fundamental to my future life," said the Doctor of the Bulgarian naval research vessel Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii (RSV 421), Senior Lieutenant Petko Ginev. "I learned when it is worth to put an effort, when to speak and when to be silent. I've had my fill of great adventures and now I'm ready to stay home for a while," he added.
Ginev works as an orthopedist at the traumatology clinic at the Military Medical Academy in Sofia. The 29-year-old Senior Lieutenant joked that he lived a happy childhood until his father started asking him what trade he wants to get into so he can feed his family. "I pondered, pondered and since I have been in the role of a patient many times and was interested to know how the human body functions, I decided to venture into applying to study medicine. I was accepted and then it was time to decide what specialty I wanted to pursue. I wandered back and forth in my thoughts and finally arrived at where I started - orthopedics. I say 'started' because part of my childhood was spent in the orthopedics and traumatology clinic. I accumulated several injuries while playing basketball and removed my own casts with supplies at hand, without going to check-ups for cast removal - you take the briefcase with pliers, scissors and knives, then cut and remove." Dr. Ginev recalled with a smile.
"I have been on two missions to Mali as a staff doctor for the European Union Training Mission. I was stationed in Bamako, the capital of Mali, as the mission headquarters is located there. In addition to being a doctor, I was also the head of the medical team and the senior national representative of the Bulgarian contingent, which was made up of four people. Both missions were at my request. I decided to make my choice before someone else made it for me, because in the army everything is by choice, but it is another question whose choice..." he added with a laugh.
"I was happy to go to Mali," Ginev continued: "There are several factors for this. Firstly, I am an adventurer by nature. Also, for the first three years after starting my military service, I was not allowed to start specializing in orthopedics, even though I worked in an orthopedic clinic. So here I am, three years of service, with two deployments under my belt, and now I'm somewhere around Gibraltar on my way home from Livingston Island," the doctor noted.
Ginev said the decision to embark on the expedition to Antarctica was again due to his adventurous spirit: "I have always been intrigued by Antarctic expeditions. The idea has often been in my head, but I never took it seriously. In 2022, I tested positive for a coronavirus infection and on one of my evenings of isolation, quite spontaneously, I decided to write an email to Prof. Hristo Pimpirev (chairman of the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute - ed.) in which I introduced myself and offered him my services as a doctor. I did not receive a direct reply, but a month later, the administration at the clinic told me that there was a letter for me. I read it and saw that I had been requested by the Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy in Varna to be Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii's doctor during the voyage of the 31st Bulgarian expedition. I felt great joy and shared the news with my superior, Prof. Nedelcho Tsachev, who told me: "Act!". However, the events coincided with the planning of my second mission to Mali, as RSV 421 was due to sail out on October 19 and I would have come home from Mali on October 7. That meant I had some 10-12 days to prepare. Luckily for me, the ship repairs went slower than planned and the sailing didn't take place until the end of December," he explained.
Following the NATO requirements for the medical capabilities of a ship according to its class, Ginev made preparations for the upcoming trip - planning what number of medicines, what quantities of each type and what medical equipment will be needed for RSV 421's long voyage. "You have to calculate how many people will be on the ship, for how long, what diseases can be expected, what are the bigger risks when you are on board - for example, with the closed ventilation system and water tanks there is an increased risk of transmitting the respiratory disease legionellosis. It is treated with a simple antibiotic, but if there is a single ill person it can spread quickly so I, as a doctor, should have at least the bare minimum of packs for the whole crew. I have to take into account that passengers will be transported as well, the capacity of the ship can reach up to 60 people. In the end, the Naval Academy in Varna found a way to purchase everything that was needed," the Senior Lieutenant recalled.
The vessel's doctor is happy that he has had no medical difficulties during the first 108 days of the voyage so far. For the past three and a half months he has not encountered any serious health complaints and illnesses.
He had the chance to imprint in his mind a cherished memory of Livingston Island. "On one of the days I had the opportunity to walk around the island alone for a few hours. I took a camera and a drone and started walking slowly. At home I am always in a hurry to get somewhere, while on Livingston there was nowhere to hurry. I was able to lie on the coastal rocks and contemplate how peaceful the place was. The fact that you're away from civilization is very nice, but it also shows you're insignificant compared to the world around you - not a bad thing for anyone to realize. We do not dictate the rules, and we should always keep that in mind because the human mind often succumbs to the risk of thinking too highly of oneself," Ginev pointed out.
"Professionally, I'm at the beginning of my path - the specializing in orthopedics. It requires me to stay at home and be in the hospital for five years. You don't learn medicine on a ship, you learn it in a hospital. Even more so a surgical specialty like orthopedics and traumatology. If I'm going to embark on one of the next expeditions, it's going to be the other way - I'm going to land the plane in South America and board the ship from one of the ports there. I went, I saw, I did my job and I'm going home," said Dr. Petko Ginev in conclusion.