When I decided to locum for a while in order to concentrate on expedition medicine, I didn’t expect to become Pudsey’s personal physician for Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge with the BBC and the One Show… but last week I was privileged to provide medical support for this fantastic event as part of the Across the Divide Expeditions event management crew. As I crept along in the medic car behind the rickshaw at around 10mph , trying to ignore the acrid smell of the clutch, I pondered the fantastic diversity of experience that expedition medicine offers. I’ve worked in various exotic locations since attending the Keswick course in Expedition Medicine, yet those 9 days supporting 8 teenagers cycle across Britain rank amongst the most enjoyable and inspiring of my career.
In many ways, the event was like any other expedition:
It took me to new places, starting in sleepy Llandudno and continued south through the stunning ,windy and wet Welsh landscape , across the rolling hills to Salisbury plain and finally to London’s concrete jungle.
I had to deal with the usual medical issues (diarrhoea, skin conditions, aches and pains), I’d swatted up on the teenagers’ chronic conditions and hoped they’d remain stable and prepared a comprehensive medical kit which was rarely used but was ready if needed.
Each day brought unexpected challenges and surprises, like having 10 minutes’ warning before being interviewed on live TV; supporting the blind rider sent down an off-road track as daylight faded (he loved it and I laughed so hard my sides hurt!); Like the hotel we shared with a party of pensioners celebrating New Year 2 months early (Auld lang Syne and the bells at 10pm before bedtime.) The event crew had to accommodate the ever-changing demands of the various parties involved including fundraisers, family and film crew and potential conflict between leaders with different agendas was resolved professionally.
My breath was taken away several times, not by high altitude peaks or panoramas but by the victories and sheer determination of the physically disabled riders…some find walking a challenge and had never ridden a bike before.
My only physical challenge was sitting in a car for 10 hrs a day! No problem, you may think, but by day 6 the urge to exercise was almost unbearable. Thankfully Physio Laura (my partner in crime) and I discovered a shared sense of humour and we laughed most of the time away.
The ATD event management crew were fantastic, confirming to me that expeditions and outdoor events tend to bring together highly professional and genuinely lovely people who are a pleasure to work with.
So if you’re interested in expedition medicine, yet can’t undertake a typical long-haul trip at the moment, why not consider getting involved in events closer to home.? They demand many of the same skills, bring unpredictable challenges and almost certainly offer some wonderful rewards.
The fantastic Team Rickshaw raised £1,547,717! with monies still coming in. Find out more about the team-members and everything they got up to!
(Dr Karen Bevan-Mogg is a GP in London. She did the Expedition and Wilderness Medicine course in Keswick 2010 and the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care course in the Lee Valley 2012.)