The BBC and Expedition and Wilderness Medicine

Helen Skelton completes the Namibia ultra marathon

Helen Skelton completes the Namibia ultra marathon

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine have once again been called upon to help BBC’s Blue Peter program. After Helen Skelton, one of the loveliest presenters we have ever had the pleasure of working with, completed Across the Divide’s  Namibia Ultra Marathon, considered by many to be the hardest desert marathon in the world and for which EWM medics provided support, she is now heading off down the Amazon and Expedition and Wilderness Medicine and Across the Divide and  were called upon to provide medical support.

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine who provide remote medical support for film crews and media companies have been busy preparing Helen for the rigours of her next adventure and expedition doctors Dr Sean Hudson and Lucy Dickinson have been busy in the BBC centre running scenarios and doing on site training.    Dr Dickinson has the pleasure of accompanying the Blue Peter expedition but rumours have it is she is more excited about the prospect of gaining an elusive Blue Peter badge than exploring one of the world’s greatest natural wonders!!

In true BBC fashion it was all filmed for prosperity and will appear on next weeks Blue Peters shows on Tuesday 19th of January and Wednesday the 20th.

Volunteering in Zambia

 

Life In Luangwa , Zambia

“Doctor Emergency”! I had seen the blood spattered wheelbarrow parked on the veranda that served as the waiting room and now the sign of the shuffling flip flops told me I was about to meet its occupant. He entered the room uncertainly, supported between his two inebriated friends. The blood soaked tea towel adorning his head giving a big clue as to his presenting complaint. Removal revealed a 7inch gash across his forehead down to the skull. His helpful friends informed me it had been inflicted by an axe, two nights ago, in a fight and they excitedly asked me to examine his leg which had been stabbed by a spear.
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The Life-Line Clinic, Namibia | Job Oppurtunity

Namib Naukluft National Park, NamibiaNamibia Medical volunteer
This challenging programme offers you a unique opportunity to work at a small, rural Bushman clinic in Africa and make a difference to the lives of those in most need.
N/a’an ku sê is a unique and special place in the heart of Namibia which is committed to conserving wildlife and improving the lives of the Bushman community. Live your African dream and help make a difference by volunteering at our Lifeline Clinic.

About N/a’an ku sê’s Lifeline Clinic
• Bushman are treated as third class citizens and live in extreme poverty
• Adult onset diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are sharply increasing in Bushmen and alcoholism has become prevalent
• Many Bushman children suffer from malnutrition, disease, discrimination and abuse

The N/a’an ku sê Lifeline Clinic was set up in 2003 to address the needs of the rural indigenous communities in Epukiro, a remote part of Namibia. The demand for a basic but comprehensive health service became apparent to medical professionals working in the area when they witnessed the tragic and unnecessary death of a young child due to the failure of ambulance service and hospital staff, largely due to the fact that the child was a Bushman.   This vital service relies upon the time and dedication of volunteers and donations from supporters to continue to run and serve the communities in need.

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Sir Chris Bonnington speaks at Expedition and Wilderness Course

We are delighted to announce that Sir Chris Bonington will be delivering the Rupert Bennett Memorial lecture.

Our next Expedition and Wilderness Medicine training courses are in March and May 2010 and we are very excited to have booked the prestigious Plas y Brenin National Mountain Centre, North Wales for the course in May.

Jungle Medicine course – Costa Rica

Course director Dr Sean Hudson writing about the Jungle Medicine Training Course in Costa Rica

Back in Costa Rica again and the jungle didn’t fail to provide the perfect environment for the Jungle Medicine training course. As one would expect, it was hot, wet and full of interesting fauna and flora. I never fail to be impressed by the beauty of the jungle, but by god it can be hard sometimes. Its one of the few places I visit that can be so harsh then so comfortable. The moment you start to feel comfortable in the jungle is that Nirvana moment.

It took a while coming this trip because of the heavy rain but we eventually made it. Mike, Ceri, Mark and Martin again excelled themselves and the addition of our new herpetologist bringing snakes into camp was great. The best new addition to the course this year was however the HENNESSEY HAMMOCK, it is without a doubt the best bit of expedition equipment I have come across. 18 people in the jungle in some of wettest conditions I have experienced and everyone was dry, or if they weren’t they didn’t let on. Quite incredible.

Other than the medic feeling a little queasy on the river, everyone escaped injury and illness. Other than the EL developing drucunculiasis that is! but he’s got to have something to winge about. Back next year and I’m looking forward to it already.

Find out more about Expedition and Wilderness Medicine and about the Jungle Medicine Training Course in particular

Polar Medicine looks northwards

Polar Medicine Training Course in action

Polar Medicine Training Course in action

Our annual, and highly acclaimed Polar Medicine Training Course is due to head to northern Norway in the middle of February – if demand is as high as it has been in previous years then we suggest that you book your place soon. 

Feedback from this years course included superlatives such as ‘best’ and ‘unmissable’

Find out more on the Polar Medicine web page or email Luci Ridout for an application form

Expedition Medicine launches a new course on Dartmoor

Expedition Medicine on DartmoorOur highly rated Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Training Course is heading south.

We are really excited about our new course – following the same schedule as our Lakeland course and with many of the same inspirational faculty we have linked up with Dartmoor’s premier training faculty, the Heatree Centre located near Newton Abbot to provide an additional course in May.

We are hoping that will make the travelling time shorter for some of you and reduce to carbon footprint of the courses, we will of course be working with the Woodland Trust as well to identify one of their projects close by which the proceeds of the course will help support.

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Dartmoor Course

Expedition Medicine

A participant’s write up – Polar Medicine Training Course February 2008

Polar Medicine Training Course | Norway

The setting for this year’s polar medicine training course was Alta, a small settlement, 72 degrees north and well within the arctic circle. A place with a deserted high street where you would be lucky to see one other passer by every 15 minutes, easily explained by a temperature at least ten degrees below freezing and a good foot of snow on the ground.

Base camp was a 40 km drive along icy roads to a picturesque mountain lodge by the name of Ongajoksetra. At the higher altitude the temperature was that much lower and if a wind was blowing, temperatures as low as minus fifty could be achieved. We were introduced to the Scandinavian team who would teach us methods of navigation across such tough terrain in harsh conditions and also to the Expedition Medicine team who would teach us polar medicine in a series of lectures and practical sessions both in the classroom and in the field. One more group I must not forget to mention is the team of fifty sled dogs who would provide another mode of transport across the snow.

Dr Claire Roche, Polar MedicineMy first day involved skidooing up a mountain demonstrating the importance of protective clothing, navigation aids and preparation for travel in severe blizzards with visibility of approximately two metres, sudden drops in temperature and rapid weather changes. I realised that without our trustworthy guide, Espen Ottem, we could become hopelessly lost in such conditions where you would be unable to survive more than a couple of hours at most. Our dog sledding guide, Pre-Thore was the perfect example of this as he told us of the time where inadequate preparation resulted in frostbite, blackening of his fingertips but fortunately no amputation. This story made me somewhat paranoid about the daily pain and numbness in my hands and feet when outside in the cold for prolonged periods. A “buddy system” was paramount to preventing frostnip. Simply by having that small exposed area of skin, pointed out to you to cover up

Dr Leslie Thomson, a consultant anaesthetist who had first – hand experience of polar medicine after spending several years in Antarctica taking part in the British Antarctic Survey gave an excellent lecture on hypothermia, bringing home how hypothermia is not just a condition seen near the poles but also in the Saturday night party goer who collapses under the stars, the homeless and the elderly. We were taught how to treat by various re-warming methods and when to commence C.P.R in the hypothermic patient sending home the message of not pronouncing death until warm and dead in certain individuals. This information was demonstrated by the story of Dr Anna Bagenholm , a 29 year old doctor who fell into icy water whilst skiing in Northern Sweden, immersed for approximately an hour, her body temperature was 13.7 degrees centigrade. C.P.R continued for three and a half hours alongside re-warming techniques such as bypass, bladder / stomach / peritoneal lavage and warm intravenous fluids. She survived to become the person with the lowest body temperature ever to survive.

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine obviously feel that first- hand experience is the best way of teaching and as a result each member of the group had to undergo cold water immersion. Prior to undertaking this challenge we were kindly taught about the cardiac arrhythmias that can be induced by the shock of entering the water, the short term cold water gasp reflex increasing the chance of aspiration and swimmers failure! One by one we stepped up to an ice hole in our thermal underwear and in the more daring members of the group a little less! to swim across icy water. I can confidently say that was the coldest I had ever been. As if several knives had been plunged into my body, breath taking and inducing chest pain, I swam across water of ridiculously low temperature to attempt getting out of the hole using my ski poles

Of our nights spent in the field we were taught how to construct snow holes. Five hours later our own little home with two double beds, stove, cupboards and shelves for our candles was constructed. It was as comfortable as it could be on a mountain side with winds blowing outside dropping the temperature to twenty below. I was amazed that the snow hole was so warm at five degrees compared to the outside however a slight air of nervousness was in the back of my mind as my avalanche detector slowly flashed in the corner and a rope attached to a spade inside connected our holes to other holes in case of us having to be dug out. The course perfectly demonstrated how to survive in such conditions

In summary the course prepared 25 everyday doctors to be able to traverse the polar landscape, recognise and competently treat local cold injury and hypothermia as well as to be safe expedition medics capable of caring for their groups and evacuating when required. To spend a week in such a location gave me the upmost respect for those who live in these regions and cross the landscape as part of everyday life, as well as a great respect for the land. In a day and age of global warming and melting of the polar ice caps it becomes paramount to look after our environment, to take only photographs and to leave only footprints.

Dr Claire Roche, Clinical Fellow in Emergency Medicine Countess of Chester Hospital.  See the BMJ article.

The next expedition medicine course will be in Desert Medicine Course which will be held in Namibia, August 17th -23rd 2008.

To see the full range of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Training Courses see here.

Desert Medicine Training Course | Namibia

Desert Medicine training course Namibia

Desert Medicine training course Namibia

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This has got to be one of the most superbly located medical training courses in the world. With a base camp in the shadow of the countries highest mountain – Burnt Mountain or Brandberg in a river valley frequented by desert elephants the training syllabus with explore this region as well as the plains in the foreground.

As well as the obvious training benefits we also hope to see the elusive desert adapted rhino and elephants, giraffes, oryx (gemsbok) as well as more common plains animals such as Thompson’s Gazelles, Ostriches and Hartman’s Mountain Zebras

The course is filling fast so to make sure you get a place email Catherine Harding or download a Desert Medicine course application form here.

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