Medics’ pre-departure blog for the Mighty Mongol Derby 2013
This year’s Derby is being covered by three splendid medics provided by Prometheus Medical. With devastating good looks, charm and, more importantly, extensive emergency medicine and expedition experience, you could do a lot worse!
The medical crew is made up of:
Dr Chris Abbott – Chris is a pre-hospital emergency medicine doctor. When he’s not saving lives he’s regularly found in the Alps mountaineering or skiing. Chris is a keen cyclist and boxer who is partial to meat based treats. He has completed expeditions to New Zealand, Peru and Greenland.
Your paramedic for the Derby is James Hubbard. James has been a paramedic since 2007, and is now a specialist medic with South Western Ambulance Service Hazardous Area Response Team. James has recently returned from a mountaineering holiday in the Alps. He successfully took part in an expedition to Honduras in 2011.
Finally there’s me, Deborah Swann. I’m an Emergency Nurse Practitioner with quite a few years’ experience in Accident and Emergency nursing and pre-hospital care. I am the only nurse in the UK working as a medic for the UK International Search and Rescue team (UK ISAR) for deployments to disaster zones. I was one the medics for last year’s Mongol Derby and, for some reason, I’ve decided to do it all again! I have extensive independent travel experience and have got myself into and out of enough ‘near-misses’ to last a lifetime.
Being a medic for the Derby is tiring. We’re on-call 24/7 for the duration of the race and finish camp celebrations. As well as ensuring the riders and crew are well, we also deal with the herders and their families. They present with anything from minor illness to significant trauma. Our duty of care extends far and wide.
Our heaviest workload last year came at the start of the race with many falls and two riders taken out of the competition within the first hour. As the riders settled into the race, the medics settled into being coiled springs ready for action.
With mainly minor injuries and illness plaguing the riders, we were challenged by a trauma which took us an hour to get to; even with our best efforts. Unlike first world countries, Mongolia is not blessed with major trauma units close by and our challenge was to keep the rider stable and transfer him by road to UB. This involved 6 hours with the rider wedged in the back of a 4X4 with improvised in-line neck stabilisation. Thankfully he made a full recovery; and the remoteness of the Steppe became more apparent.
Most riders endured tiredness, back and leg pain, chafing and, towards the end, exhaustion. Some were hit with vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Hand hygiene and personal cleanliness are vital to staying healthy on the Steppe. This alone can be a challenge, but is manageable with wet wipes and alcohol hand gel when there’s limited access to washing facilities. Keeping hydrated, having adequate supplies of pain relief and using sun protection and lip balm with high SPF meant that most riders had no contact with the medics for the entire race, which kept me happy as that was my only holiday last year.
The Mongol Derby is becoming more iconic with every year that passes and to be a part of it is thrilling, demanding, tiring, entertaining, exasperating and an honour.