“Getting run over was my doorway into research”

Being in plaster after a road accident and unable to return to work in the hospital, Märit Halmin decided to turn her hand to research. This March, she will be presenting her thesis on blood transfusions in intensive care.

Name: Märit Halmin.
Works as: Anaesthesiologist at Stockholm South General (Söder) Hospital and researcher at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
Other ventures: Doctors Without Borders (Afghanistan 2015, Yemen 2016), Läkaruppropet (a petition for better healthcare), the “Ronden” podcast.

Märit Halmin, credit: Mattias Ahlm.
Märit Halmin. Photo: Mattias Ahlm

“There was no room on the street, but the lorry still tried to get through. It bumped into my bike and I fell off. As I saw the big double wheels I thought “this is it, I’m going to get crushed”, but only my left arm get caught. In the ambulance I wondered what kind of doctor’s job I could get with an amputated arm. As it turned out, my injury wasn’t that bad and I’m now pretty much back to normal. To put it a little melodramatically: getting run over by a lorry the day before Christmas Eve was my doorway into research. I couldn’t go to work in the hospital with my whole arm in plaster, and the idea of taking sick leave for the entire spring was unbearable – I’m a restless soul. So I decided to embark on a research project instead. As a prospective anaesthetist I had long been musing over a serious complication of blood transfusion and this was my opportunity to find out more about it. The main thing was to keep myself occupied, but I soon discovered that I loved it!

My work in intensive care is really exacting and stimulating in many ways, but rarely analytical like this. Cardiac arrest you don’t analyse – you just get on with it and follow procedures without delay. I’m presenting my thesis on blood transfusions in March. It concerns the correct distribution of plasma and red blood cells for major transfusions and if the blood quality deteriorates in any way during storage. My study is based on a million transfusions and shows that storage time has no effect on patient survivability. Eventually I hope to be able to combine my clinical work and research. I find doing both so rewarding.”

Text: Anders Nilsson, first published in Medicinsk Vetenskap nr 1 2017.