Blood Sweat and Tears!

Peter G Brindley MD FRCPC, University of Alberta, Canada

Medical Conferences are not all fun and games, even when they are, most definitely, a great laff. Events such as the 2018 Intensive Care Society’s State of the Art meeting take hard graft, endless planning, overcoming set-backs and ignoring SNAFUs…oh those darn SNAFUs. It takes collaboration between the enthusiastic many (i.e. the magnificent paying attendees) and the indefatigable few (i.e. the magnificent unpaid organisers). Given that the Faculty Supper was at Churchill’s War Room, I will (badly) paraphrase the great man in order to add my thanks to Steve Mathieu and his stalwart team: “Never in the field of human conferences was so much owed by so many to so few. If the Medical Conference endures for 1000 years, men (and women) shall say: this was our finest…three days.”

And what a location! In answer to the question, “Daddy, where were you during the Brexit debate?”, I can now state, “I was actually in Westminster, darling…now get me a cup of tea, would you”. Clearly, it was a capital idea to meet in London’s beating heart.  Similarly, what a piece of schadenfreude-luck that our Intensive debates occurred across the road from Britain’s white-hot Brexit debate. Nothing like comparing and contrasting to bring clarity. After all, only one of these events was truly a matter of life and death.

Despite what the BBC’s chattering classes and flag-waving zealots would have you believe, the needs of patients and colleagues trump anything on the nightly news. Our conference covered blood (how it pumps and how it is purified), sweat (namely, the ravages of physiologic stress) and tears (the patient perspective and our moral distress). It also left me thankful and grateful and reinvigorated. Cor blimey: thanks ICS, I needed that.

With all of this “which political team are you on?” stuff in the air, let me be clear: It’s ICS all the way for this former brit who…uhm…chose not to remain. In other words, even though I emigrated to the frozen wastelands and fresh air of Western Canada, I will always love coming back. Your British USP is clear to me. The ICS State of the Art is the best combination of scientific rigour, satirical humour, and respectful hard-hitting debate. Mental dexterity and verbal gymnastics are your best exports; you need not worry about trade deals. You also made it clear how all are welcome regardless of nationality or specialty. The health system is clearly stress, but boy is it resilient.

So, can the 2019 conference in Birmingham possibly compete? Well, Mr Speaker, let me be clear: There is no risk of a no confidence vote from me. If you’ve had enough of political bombast then imagine me switching to a broad brummie accent. This allows me to be Peaky Blinders clear: “of course it bloody will”. As a former Midlander I can tell you that we like nothing more than a challenge. Birmingham will see-you and likely raise-you in Conference poker.  There will be no bulls*** in the bullring. We should all make the trip to the Black Country, and not just for the Balti.  Regardless, many conferences just want your registration fees and many societies just want your dues. In stark contrast the ICS is a community that wants your voice. Thank you from a very grateful and undeserving expat.

Photographs by Simon Callaghan