FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

136Table 2: Number of Student Volunteers from FMU’s School of MedicineAt the time of the earthquake, many students between their second and sixth years volunteered in some capacity (data from May 2011).Image 2: Care for Patients Exposed to Radiationa: Surgery rooms for patients exposed to radiation: all equipment is covered with plastic sheets so that it is not contaminated by radioactive substances.b: Surgery room drills (orthopedic surgery): by simulating an actual surgery, we were able to verify a given procedure used to avoid secondary radiation exposure.School year123456Number of questionnaire respondents 917260447519Number of volunteers (%)9(9.8)23(32)26(43)17(39)40(53)18(98)Average number of volunteer activities4.1(1~30)3.1(1~15)4.4(1~14)5.1(1~14)4.5(1~15)4.6(1~20)conducted radiation screenings of patients with suspected exposure, such as those within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Patients showing counts of 100,000 or more on the scintillation counter were treated as exposed patients and underwent decontamination procedures. Very few patients had counts above 100,000 and needed decontamination. Most patients with higher counts saw these measurements sharply drop after taking off shoes and clothes or washing their hair.The hospital announced that it would issue a code red alert (close windows, stop ventilation, and do not go outdoors, among other instructions), if further large-scale explosions occurred. An abstract sense of dread proliferated through the hospital and the medical school on hearing about the possibility of a code red alert. But thankfully, no such alert was issued.As a secondary radiation exposure facility, the university hospital conducted initial treatment and decontamination of workers from the Fukushima Daiichi plant and others with high levels of radiation exposure. We had to decide whether to send them to a tertiary radiation exposure facility or continue treatment at our hospital. From March 14 to 30, a total of 11 people were transported to our hospital from the Fukushima Daiichi plant; none of them were critical. We had prepared for all contingencies, such as patients needing to stay for further treatment after decontamination, by covering all equipment in the surgery room with plastic sheets and regularly conducting mock surgeries and patient transportation in the surgery rooms (Image 2). Considering patients with orthopedic injuries might be frequently transported, orthopedic surgeons also participated in these simulations. Fortunately, since the day of the earthquake, we have not used the surgery rooms for patients with high levels of radiation exposure.Student VolunteersAt the time of the earthquake, fifth-year students in the School of Medicine were in their bedside learning (BSL) classes and fourth-year students were in their basic medical science classes (researching topics as assignments part of the curricula). After the earthquake, the university hospital requested these students to volunteer in exchange for meals and lodging, and willing students volunteered. From the 12th, student volunteers came under the direct supervision of the Emergency Response Headquarters and followed instructions by the authors. The volunteers’ tasks included transporting specimens, collecting medicines, guiding patients and DMATs, and in the words of the students themselves, “tasks that fill in the gaps” and “work that the duty staff are unable to do.”We optimally used their capacity and support from March 14 to the early morning of March 15, when several patients arrived simultaneously in a Self-Defense Forces helicopter and police buses from within the 20-kilometer radius around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. We were notified beforehand that many patients would arrive at once, but had no confirmation of when and if Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and Ensuing Radiation Exposure Issues