Journey in Extreme Medicine: From Best to Worst with Dr Ffyon Davies [Podcast]

10 March 2023

In this episode of the podcast, Will Duffin is joined by Dr Ffyon Davies, an experienced extreme medic, to discuss her most memorable moments in the field. 

Ffyon shares her experiences in Mountain Rescue and as an Expedition Medic on Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the toughest roles in the field. The conversation covers a range of topics including team dynamics, leadership, casualty management, wilderness fracture management, and more. They also discuss unique challenges such as preventing water from freezing at high altitudes and managing a spread-out group. 

Ffyon offers practical advice and insights for anyone interested in extreme medicine, including understanding one’s limits, vulnerability modelling, and coping when struggling at altitude. 

→ Tune in for an engaging and informative discussion on Ffyon’s best and worst moments in extreme medicine.

If you’re interested in learning more about Ffyon’s most memorable cases, keep reading! In the following sections, Ffyon shares more in-depth details about a couple of her experiences in extreme medicine.

About Ffyon

Ffyon is an ED Registrar based in North Wales. Usually found either outdoors, at work or both, she is currently a clinical fellow in ED, ICU and PHEM (working with EMRTS Air Ambulance) at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. She is an ‘FY5’, taking a slightly circuitous route to qualifying in Emergency Medicine via the CESR pathway, taking time out wherever possible to do what she loves undertaking expedition medicine roles which have included working as chief medical officer on worked as chief medical officer on board Tall Ship Pelican of London, sailing from Germany to Tenerife, and as a trail medic supporting ultramarathons in Wales and the Azores islands.

When she’s not working, she’s out playing in the mountains hiking, running, climbing and kayaking, usually accompanied by her trusty welsh collie Foxy. She also volunteers with her local mountain rescue team, North East Wales Search and Rescue. She has completed her Mountain leader training and is also a qualified Elementary Paragliding Pilot.

Story #1 – Mountain Biker Rescue

Ffyon recounted a late-night Mountain Rescue callout to a mountain biker with a severely deformed ankle. 

Upon assessment, the team found that the limb had a delayed capillary refill of five seconds and was cold to the touch. With no option but to treat the casualty on the hillside, Ffyon and the team administered Entonox and IM morphine to manage the pain before reducing the fracture back into an anatomical position. They then immobilised the ankle with a vacuum splint. 

Despite long ambulance delays, the team managed to transport the patient directly to the ED in their Land Rover, where he underwent surgical fixation. This experience is a remarkable example of the dedication and expertise required to deliver high-quality patient care in extreme environments. 

Gross swelling of the ankle and some critical skin over the medial malleolus. This could very easily have been an open fracture.
The team in action, packaging the patient to get him off the mountain.

Story #2 – Worst Moment 

During her first experience in Expedition Medicine and altitude, Ffyon Davies had her worst moment. 

She was appointed as a Medic on a Kilimanjaro trek, and during the brutal summit night, temperatures dropped to -20 with windchill, and she was feeling the altitude. Despite considering giving up, the summit was successful, with 75% of the participants reaching the top and returning safely. 

Ffyon discusses the challenge of self-care while looking after participants, which was made harder when the group split apart, and her camelbak tubing froze, depriving her of water. Nevertheless, she administered ibuprofen, paracetamol, and ondansetron. You can listen to Ffyon’s account of her experience on the Kili Summit and more of her experiences by tuning in here. 

Near the Summit, Ffyon’s oxygen sats were well into the low 80’s.
Summit photo, Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro. Everyone is elated but completely wrecked!

If you’re interested in learning how to adapt medical skills to work in Mountain Rescue or Expedition Medicine, Expedition and Wilderness Medicine courses are a great starting point. The courses cover trauma management and altitude with plenty of hands-on practice. 

→ Join a World Extreme Medicine training course to learn Mountain Rescue & Expedition and Wilderness Medicine

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