So I've decided to write a day in the life of chapter....
The event I've chosen to speak about is the Forces March, which will appear frequently throughout my blogs.
So.... I'm going to set the scene, after a few emails sent between me and Danny from the Veterans Charity I had asked Kev to be the second Medic for the challenge. We both new each others specialities along with our own limitations. We arranged 4 practice sessions using our medical equipment, checking, re-checking and packing our bags so we knew the layouts blindfolded which in a hurry could mean the saving of seconds, and potentially lives.
I'd ordered more wound equipment as we told that we would only really be dealing with foot care.... how wrong this statement was to be!.....
So what was packed in each of our cars?
Each car carried - defibrillator, airway management, patient monitoring, 3 bottles of oxygen, pain relief, trauma equipment, wound care, burns equipment, over the counter medication, fracture equipment, spinal collars, blankets, hi-visibility waistcoats, safety clothing, personal kit, sleeping bags (carried a spare for a hypothermia patient), tent .... and 36 bottles of drinking water! In my car, I carried spare fluids, and extra wound care equipment.
0600hrs each morning, sorting out our routine, quick shower (wet water guaranteed - temperature was always a guessing game!). We'd then usually start packing up our own personal kit, and start checking the vehicle medical kits for the march.
Overnight we always kept a medical bag inside our tents, in case we were called out to attend to a patient. Breakfast usually started with a hot cup from the ever trusty event management team. A quick walk around the site to wake up a bit more and we were good to go....
0700hrs several patients were usually already lined up waiting - all quietly supping cups of tea or munching on the cereal of the day, we always asked people to come back to the same person that had treated them previously, this allows us to monitor the wounds / conditions and then adapt the treatment plans from there.
Treatment locations varied throughout the event, sometimes we treated patients within their tent (the sports field site was so windy we couldn't put up our gazebo), inside support vehicles - had a very memorable experience one day with RAF Northolt in the back of their Transit Minibus with a bottle of whiskey for an anaesthetic and the Group captain! the same evening 2 Battalion Royal Tank Regiment choose to go alfresco - as the sun was coming down, chilled out on the grass lancing blisters whilst they all joked and shared stories.
So once morning 'clinic' had been done all competitors had to be ready to go for the 10am start, along with this we needed to be packed up quite quickly ready to provide the medical cover for the route.
Most days we managed to achieve this by a technique I now term as 'dynamic camping' which quite simply put means all I need to camp is a sleeping bag and tent.... blankets and sleeping mats aren't required for comfort - as when tiredness kicks in you can sleep anywhere!
So with kit re-packed, car layouts checked we then make our way out of the campsites. We know where the destination for the day will be, its just the route that now bears the challenge for us.
Both being Berkshire boys and no personal knowledge of the road layouts we choose to calculate the route into two sectors. Each day a car would be sat at 8 miles and the second at 16.... so the longest run to an incident would be 8 miles. We followed the competitors signs, and positioned ourselves in locations which we thought we may be needed, either due to rural location, inclines, or public areas.
Mobile phone signal in certain areas was non-existent so we spent long periods of time sat in the cars on our own, with only the local radio stations for company. The support vehicles going past with the obligatory arm wave and horn hoot was passing the time of day. Once the first competitor had gone by we then began to estimate length of times to completion.
Another hour would go by then we would choose to double back and slowly drive the route in reverse.... this was the most entertaining part as all of the signs were behind us..... so memory was required and a good satnav with saved locations.... on a few occasions though I completely got lost doing this technique and ended up on a 60 mile detour via Exeter! Luckily I had already spoken Kev and he had repositioned himself in the middle of the competitors to provide cover until I rejoined the route.....
..... The famous site of Chaz Bowyer and Steve Fisher (who I called Chaz & Dave) in their ever trusty Freelander confirmed the back of the event convoy. We would regularly meet up and have a chat about what was going on, along with discussing the finer culinary delights of the local establishments! Chaz & Dave did a fantastic job of ensuring vehicles were aware of the competitors on the road, often not making it out of 2nd gear for the entire day, collecting all of the direction signs as they went along (which I still think was the reason why I ended up in Exeter!)
If we were required to stop for a competitor they just simply indicated by showing us the thumbs down sign, which we then parked up safely and investigated what the problem was..... often it was a blister that had filled up, or a show which was rubbing.... if the any muscles / ligaments were involved we would then call on our colleagues from Sports Injuries Clinic, who would send a pair of physios out from base camp to hopefully treat the patient in location. We would if suitable provide pain relief and basic sports injury care until the physio car arrived.
Our combined medical team ethos was that we would do as much as we could to ensure that all of the competitors and support team members got through the event without any risk of lasting injury to themselves.
My favourite place I remember treatment people was the front car park of a community centre.... I can't quite remember the village unfortunately.....
I had parked up in the car park and all of the local residents had come out to support - we were offered drinks and refreshments. I was asked by the local councillor how the event was going and my answer was fabulous!
Competitors started coming in, I was asked to look at several of the younger element.... I decided that due to the number of people in the area I didn't want to step out of the environment and go into the village hall - so I setup the clinic on a picnic bench.... patients laid on the bench, shoes were taken off and they were all ready to be treated! I still remember the councillor looking on in astonishment to what was taking place!
Once Chaz and Dave caught up, we had a quick drink of much needed Cold water! (usually got given enough chocolate to sink the Bismarck!) we packed up and were gone again.....
The Forces March is an interesting phenomenon, it is an endurance event recreating a formidable challenge which occurred nearly 60 years ago. Yet it works on the same basis then, as it does now. It is a fully functioning, but completely independent unit. It brings its own support team, it cooks, provides water, lighting, showers, provides medical and physio support. Then within a matter of hours all of this is packed up and moved to the next location. The only trace you will see of this event is the foot prints in the ground.
1400 - Lunch was taken on the hoof, we would pop into a local shop and grab a pasty or something equally as healthy! Day 2 we had Maisie & Kat out with us - one in each of the cars..... I think me and Kat managed to put the entire world to rights with the 8 hours we spent together, and Maisie brain washed Kev using some words he even had to look up on Urban Dictionary!
1700 - Once the competitors started to finish the route, one of us would go into base camp and setup ready for the evening 'clinic' sessions. The other medical car would then proactively drive the route, regularly checking on all of the competitors. If a competitor had to be uplifted from the route, they would be stabilised, placed into a support vehicle and then taken onto the next campsite to have their treatment continued. Luckily this only happened on a few occasions and I would like to thank those support crews that assisted with this process - by taking competitors from other teams or individuals back to base camp - a credit to the team work and comradeship of this event.
Danny the organiser would know the day was complete and all competitors were back when he would see the famous Freelander coming through the gates of whichever site would be home for the next 16 hours..... the physios would be in full swing.... Adam, Jody, Alice, Maisie and Kat doing all they could do to massage and help the muscles work to their full advantages.
Me and Kev would work around them patching up any footcare issues. When footcare became more prevalent than muscle work the physios would then switch roles and help us out, we would often have light hearted competitions comparing blisters between participants!
A word which was banned from day one, and puts fear into any Forces March Medic is "Compeed". This is regularly used within the military to prevent blisters, but is useless during extreme events, as it doesn't allow the skin to breathe and acts as another layer which causes immense friction and subsequent pain factor is immense. During the first few days we removed large amounts of compeed from participants feet and around their heels and Achilles tendon areas. After bathing these areas, the hot spot sites were covered with a special blister gel which acted as both a cooling and absorbent system to allow the skin to permeate correctly and repair much quicker.
2000 - the evening would end with a beer or two, chilling out and unwinding for the evening, often I would walk around the site which gave me chance to mentally focus on what the day had brought, to collect my thoughts together.
2300 - The sleeping bag would be a welcome reminder of a couple of hours of sleep, before starting the day bright and breezy for another day.... what challenges would it bring?