Before we travelled there was a lot of preparation to do for all team members. All members completed a medical form and immunisation record. We received differing advice about whether we needed the Tick-borne encephalitis vaccination but in the end after reading a couple of articles it was decided that we should work on the side of caution and virtually every team member received the course. Deciding whether to carry antibiotics, and if so then how they might be obtained, proved something of a problem. We received varying advice on this as well but we decided to get Ciprofloxacin prescribed to us from our GPs. Four of us were successful. All members completed a Remote Emergency Care (REC) Level 2 First Aid course.
As hoped we had no serious medical issues. However, a few minor issues did arise. The initial walk-in and acclimatisation days saw three of the team suffering from Traveller’s Diarrhoea (e-coli). We had tried to be careful in Bishkek with hygiene and food choice, but this was not completely successful, most probably exacerbated by the heat and exhaustion from travel. We ate no unpeeled fresh fruit but we did eat bread from a market, which may have been the source of the infection. At base camp diarrhoea was treated with rest, access to the trowel pit and as many rehydration sachets as could be managed by those ill. By the second day of their illness all were showing signs of improvement and began managing to eat sufficiently well to rebuild strength.
The second incident occurred after the first team got back from the first mountain day when one team member had lost a large proportion of his water due to a water bottle leak. Despite some sharing of water, the team member became quite dehydrated on the descent in the early afternoon sun. His symptoms included sickness, pale skin and feeling cold and tired. After treating with Buccastem M prochlorperazinemateate to contain the nausea, he managed to rehydrate, though needed an extra rest day for recovery.
On the other team’s first day one member twisted their ankle on the way down; the injury did not prevent further ascents, but many hours of walking on moraine and other difficult terrain made it difficult for the injury to heal. Icy water treatment was used along with an ankle support and tightly laced boots on mountain days. There was several minor scratches to arms and legs which were all cleaned with antiseptic wipes, water and, where necessary, covered. Blisters were treated with plasters and tape. There was one minor case of hay fever or similar allergic response. Antihistamines and remaining in the tent seemed to help with this.
During our 'Phase 2' there was a minor injury due to unseen street furniture and one of the team came down with constipation (one of the only illnesses we didn't have drugs for).
First aid course
Seven of the members took a first aid course with Jon Parry (Activate Training), which was well tailored to the expedition and very relevant to the types of problem we may find. It taught some members from scratch and refreshed everyone else. Jon also gave us some confidence in our first aid kit supplies and emergency preparation, which was very helpful.