Monday, 15 April 2013

A day in the life of an adventure trek PM and Expedition Dr

By Dr Fred Campbell-Jones

It is Saturday morning and I’m lying in my hammock. The sun rays are starting to emerge through the dense forest canopy and I can hear the calls of birds and the musical sounds of the stream. How different this is from Saturday mornings in my Accident and Emergency Dept in England! Instead of seeing head injury patients sobering up from the alcohol fuelled Friday night, I see bleary eyed Venturers emerging and getting on with their delegated tasks. They start the fire to boil water for the delicious porridge, purify the water and take down their tarps and hammocks.


My role here is more as an adventure trek PM but just in case, I’m also the Dr on-call. I like to see myself as an insurance policy, not the kind that you have to have and hate, but the kind you are glad you have. Like other PMs, I’m a volunteer and do all the duties they do, however, together with the rest of the medic team on Expedition 13C, I am also here to ensure everyone stays healthy. I watch meals like breakfast with an eagle eye to ensure there is no contamination of food, that hand washing is done and reinforce the three bowl cleaning methods, all in the name of preventing diarrhoea and vomiting.


In the mornings I address any medical queries, mainly to do with feet and if I’m on Mamutik Island (Dive Island) I may have to look into a few ears to check for issues. On a standard trek day the priority is ensuring Venturers stay hydrated (sip don’t glug) and wear sun cream with hats to prevent heat illness. Daily I remind them about keeping feet dry and using talc to prevent blisters and the early stages of trench foot, Injuries from trips or falls are also best prevented. Some trails are narrow, steep and slippery and the last thing we want is to have a casualty evacuation (casevac).


Later in the trek I look for signs of heat illness or physical exhaustion as Venturers carry heavy packs for 4 – 7 hours of trekking per day. If anything happens though, I have my 6kg medical kit to hand and a spare tarpaulin to set up a mobile consultation ‘room’.



Once at camp I’m asked to review all sorts of bites, scratches and rashes mainly for which the treatments are simple. It is all fun and games and when the group goes to bed there is always the chance of one last case to deal with late in the evening when I’m tired and have achy legs, destined for the hammock.


The job of an Expedition Medic is never done and it is challenging being two roles at once, but I can tell you this, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right now but here in the Primary and Secondary rainforests of Borneo with a great group of Venturers and fellow PMs on this challenging trek adventure of a lifetime.

1 comment:

joanna said...

Freddie Aitken - Alpha 8

Hope all going well. No news of Alpha 8 yet since you started phase 3. Give us a ring when you get back to basecamp and hopefully we will not get cut off this time! We love hearing all your news and we need to talk before you go on to Australia! Roy and Sue are all lined up to pick you and Hugh up from Melbourne airport. Don't forget to send those postcards to Ma etc, as they'd so like to hear from you. All fine here. James went back to school yesterday and has mocks starting today and I am going to Monmouth to house sit this week. Dad's new job is going ok too. Big hugs. Mum x0x0x0x