Expect the Unexpected

As you are aware, Alex unfortunately picked up an injury to his head. I thought I would provide my own insight into the events that unfolded. That night was completely unexpected. We had a great day skiing, the weather and conditions were amazing as well as spectacular. It just shows you how fast a situation can change. Lying in the tent, getting warm and with some hot chocolates being prepared. Bliss.

Myself and Jamie became aware of the growling coming from the normally high pitched and surprisingly melodic Colin.

Our Camp for the Night
Our Camp for the Night

With Alex outside and aware of the potential for bears we called out to him a few times to make sure he was ok. There was no response. I quickly put my boots on, picked up the shotgun and headed outside. It was eerily quiet. Of much more concern initially there was no sign of Alex. Looking over at the sleds there was a strange dim glow of a light. Heading over I saw Alex's body sprawled on the floor, I called to Jamie for assistance as he was out cold on the snow. Shouting at him and checking he was still breathing, we lifted him into the tent. After following our first aid training, a wave of relief flowed through Jamie and I, as we revived him and got him into his sleeping bag to start warming him up. Our first thought and concern being hypothermia possibly due to fainting or a trip. We began piecing together what had happened with Alex complaining of a sore head and neck there was only one call to make. Fortunately my mum, who is a doctor back in Scotland, provided us with some much needed medical advice via sat phone.

It is safe to say it was not a easy nights rest and waking to an unsurprisingly still medically unfit Alex. Another call to our official expedition doc, Dr Alex Kumar as well as Informing the local Mounties of or situation we waited to see how Alex's condition developed. Jamie and myself quickly made the call that we required assistance to be pulled back to where he could be monitored and treated by the local medical team. If need be he could also be flown to the nearest hospital. With the Skidoos on route it was just a waiting game till they arrived and a case of trying to stay warm as we packed up our equipment apart from our tent before they arrived.

Keeping Alex Warm and Topped up with Hot Chocoloate
Keeping Alex Warm and Topped up with Hot Chocoloate

Once they arrived, we soon had all our stuff including two of the three dogs on the komatiks (large sleds). Gemima despite being fed and following us for the entire trip she would not unfortunately come near enough to get her in as well. She would we hoped follow us back safely.

It was a beautiful evening as we zipped along under northern lights, despite my frozen goggles I managed to catch a glimpse when we slowed. What followed was the coldest journey that Jamie and myself have experienced. Alex rightly so had our emergency down trousers keeping him toasty warm, letting him get cold in his current state was not an option. The decision to hold onto the skidoo or alternatively warming our freezing knees, toes or any other parts of our body that felt cold by rubbing them with our hands, banging our feet or anything we could think of was a tough choice. I found squeezing my legs round the chassis seemed to do the trick! Respite came as the sled carrying the dogs broke off, giving us the opportunity to run about like headless chickens in a bid to get warmth flowing through us.

The final section of the journey felt like an age before the lights of Qik appeared on the horizon and we rolled into town. Rolling off the Skidoos in a semi frozen state. This was followed by me and Jamie piling into Chris and Halie's house where we peeled off our frozen and icicle covered clothing before running, jumping, swinging our arms and rubbing our legs and toes till we could feel them getting hot again.

With Alex at the med centre and us warm, we could finally relax and start reflecting on the fact that we were back in Qik.

It was certainly a mixture of emotions, pleased we had made the right decision and got back safely (other than the obvious) but clearly disappointing and completely unexpected compared to just over 24 hours previously. The whole experience had certainly not sunk in completely.

I thought it would be appropriate to include an extract from Alex's latest blog.

"You may be wondering why I am still in Qikiqtarjuaq and not long-since flown south or back on the route north. We’ve had cumulatively hours of consultation with both the few medical staff here, with two of our expedition doctors, Benno’s mother and in particular my friend Dr Alex Kumar, and thereafter with the medical team from my insurers. It took around twenty-four hours from the moment I, inexplicably, managed to trip on a line in the dark outside our tent and knock myself unconscious, through making the decision to withdraw, to getting medical attention. A judgment was made at that point that an emergency bleed on my brain was unlikely and so an immediate medevac by air was not necessary. You then enter a window of days or even weeks when the symptoms are severe enough to require medication and make a flight on a pressurised aircraft dangerous, but not bad enough to need immediate removal to a large hospital. I am currently in that window. It seems counter-intuitive at first, given the assumption that sooner is always better, but all doctors concur that a scan, most likely an MRI, at this stage is needed to assess the extent and type of brain injury, but that I need to have much-reduced symptoms first. The hope is for an uncomplicated brain bruise that simply needs time and rest to fix. In the meantime, I’m on the biff-train for the first time in around five years. Some of you might recognise that term and empathise with the sheer irritation that comes with it. Benno and Jamie, having done a sterling job on the ice bringing me round and back to Qik, are hitting the balance of making sure that tasks are being done with the increased participation I can manage each day."

You can read the rest on the link below