Friday, 15 March 2019


Title: Holiday SOS
Byline: Sun, Sea and Surgery
Author: Ben Macfarlane
Genre: Biography, Autobiography, Medical
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 1st July 2009

BLURB from Goodreads
Who are you going to call if it all goes wrong on holiday?Meet Doctor Ben MacFarlane. His job is to bring people back to Britain after holiday disasters, gap year crisis, embarrassing incidents on business trips and all the other things that can go wrong when we head off overseas. Holiday SOS is his story -- a year in the life of a very British flying doctor.Follow Ben as he grabs his medical bag and flies to glamorous locations -- helping to pick up the pieces after another holiday emergency. Dramatic, hilarious or wildly unexpected, for flying doctors, emergency medicine doesn't just take place in intensive care wards -- it can happen just across the aisle on your next flight.


I have previously read this type of biography/autobiography and thoroughly enjoyed it. So far I have read a few teacher ones, including a Gervase Phinn titles. One of the first books of this genre I read and totally adored was the Diary of a Checkout Girl by Tazeen Ahmad. I hadn't really given much thought to how people that have accidents or are taken ill abroad are brought home safely. 

The cover depicts an image of the central character/person in the book who is also the author, Ben MacFarlane. The title Holiday SOS fits the book perfectly and in a few of the cases that Ben attends to there is certainly a "Save Our Souls" element to them! Then there's the "Sun, Sea and Surgery" byline which certainly attracts your eye to it. Thee guy representing Ben is wearing a white Doctors, along with a bright pair of shorts! and has a large holdall trolley of medical supplies. There is also a kind of introductory pre-title description on the front cover which says: The Life Saving Adventures Of A Travelling Doctor.

This book is full of amusing quotes and amazing stories of what situations people find themselves whilst abroad. Ben started doing repatriations as a way of earning a little money but some became addicted to the lifestyle and the travel element of the job. Ben loves seeing different places. Its not all work and sometimes whilst he is abroad on a job he gets to do some sight seeing and experience the local areas for a few hours. This book reminded me of a couple of air hostess diary/books that I have read too. The camaraderie, the "gallows humour", and the blunt honesty of the books. 

One of the first jobs Ben shares with us is the story of Toby Martin Harris who is from London. Toby is a usually fit and well young man. His medical history is good, in that he is not on any regular medication, has no known allergies, and no blood problems. His family history is clear too with no history of heart disease, cancer, strokes or epilepsy. Toby is at the moment stranded in a Turkish Hospital after being "scooped up" off a Turkish roadside. It is Ben's job to check Toby over, and decide whether he is fit to leave hospital and well enough to board a flight home with Ben at his side to monitor him on the homeward flight.

The book also contains the banter between the Doctors, Nurses and office workers. The boss in charge who does both the repatriations and the office work is Jackie. Jackie and Ben have a friendship that becomes stronger throughout the book. Jackie suspects she could be seriously ill but want to bury her head in the sand. Then it comes to the point that Jackie cannot hide her illness and she confides in Ben who tries his best to be there when she needs to talk and be sympathetic though he also administers some tough love telling her she needs to go to a Doctor instead of self diagnosing to find out exactly what it is that she is fighting against.

There's quite a lot of rivalry and competition around who gets both the best jobs in the best places along with who can do the best sight seeing or best experience abroad whilst on a job. Then on the other hand when all the workers get together there is a bit of a who has bragging rights to the worst stories of the types of people they rescue and the worst accident/incidents they have had.

There is a lot of comedy within this book but don't think its all fluffy and amusing there are some pretty sad and poignant stories especially one elderly lady who cries because she is so alone yet so happy to see Ben arrive to take her home. 

I loved the way those doing the repatriations buy chocolates and gifts for the guys back in the office to attempt to bribe them so they are given preferential treatment in getting access to the best jobs.

We see the whole experience good and bad through Doctor Ben's eyes and then see a little from a newbie nurses perspective. She likes the sound of seeing different parts of the world and has the relevant qualifications she just doesn't have the confidence in herself to think on her feet and improvise should the need arise. Every one tries to reassure her, they even send her of trips with others to increase her confidence. 

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were Interesting read. Kind of like a diary/journal about the life of a Doctor who takes care of those who are taken ill or have an accident abroad. This book was interesting, humorous, and informative! 

I also think whoever reads this book would never ever go abroad again without great holiday insurance.

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