Schoolgirl creates a Big Bang by collapsing three times in one day

A schoolgirl falls to the ground, her face turning red as she struggles to take a breath. The growing panic in her eyes mirrors the shock in the crowd that encircles her. By the end of the day she’ll have endured, and survived, three of these life-threatening asthma attacks.

Luckily for Ella, the attacks weren’t real. She was acting as part of Emergency! at this year’s Big Bang science fair. I was at the opening day of the event in March, with James Moore, to video and photograph this public engagement initiative headed up by Professor Roger Kneebone and Dr Fernando Bello.

Real paramedics, doctors, nurses and surgeons teamed up to put on hyper realistic simulations of emergency medicine. Using genuine equipment and procedures that both save lives and train new medical staff, the team treated the Big Bang audience to ‘performances’ of emergency heart and brain surgery, in addition to the asthma attacks.

“Our aim here is to give children and their teachers and parents a sense of what’s involved when someone is taken ill, and how they need to be taken care of by a whole team of people” said Professor Kneebone. “And particularly how they shouldn’t be frightened; that they should be excited, not only about the care that people give, but the science that goes alongside it, and how they could get involved in a scientific or medical career themselves. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.”

After an unfortunately brief visit, we headed back to the office to create a short trailer, with the aim of encouraging more people to visit Emergency! over the weekend. We were delighted that the video trailer (below) featured on the front page of the Health section of the new Imperial News site, and are confident we achieved our aim.

Visitors to the fair also had to contend with a zombie epidemic, as the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling introduced their work at their Bacterial Games stand.

We’re now working with Roger and Fernando to set up a blog for their future public engagement work, to provide a space for them to sound out ideas, to talk about future events and to invite feedback from others. A more in-depth film of Emergency! will hopefully feature there soon.

Are you (a Faculty of Medicine academic) involved in public engagement activities? Do have a story that you think needs to be told? As your Digital Communications team, James and I are here to help. Whether it’s assistance in getting going on social media, setting up your website or you’d like us to help you capture something on camera, get in touch!

Al McCartney, Digital Communications Officer.

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