Apr 17 2011


Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 10:55 pm

There being no handy bijou delicatessens in the Empty Quarter where one could stop off for a pumpkin soup and pastrami/goat cheese melt on sourdough, we are issued each morning with these lunch boxes.

Normally tuna or egg (in the desert? Really? Are you trying to kill us?) on the bizarrely sugary sliced bread that’s common round here. Also potato crisps (salt or chilli flavour. Crushed.), fruit and a juice box. They sit in sweaty polystyrene cartons all morning until we remember to eat them.

By the end of the day, there are always left overs.


Apr 14 2011


Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 5:20 pm

Its John’s first time out with us. He’s a senior consultant (professor??) in anaesthetics in Australia and the CMO for a major moto track event.

We did some maths, he’s been a consultant for longer than I’ve been alive. He qualified as a doctor when my parents were in high school. Frankly, what he doesn’t know about sick and broken people, I’m not interested in learning. I’m confident he has forgotten more than I will ever know.

But despite this, he played the “new boy” card like a pro. He was deferent (sometimes embarrassingly so) to other members of the team and when he found that carrying big heavy Russian rally drivers across the dunes is very different from 60kg Japanese moto driviers on black-top, he was the first to laugh at how novel the situation was to him.

We flew a few jobs, he and I, mostly shipping boys out on spinal boards, turning up at jobs as the second or third medical response and simply transporting riders to hospital.

Towards the end of the event we’re sat on the grass at a hospital landing site and he takes a call.

Its not a good call. His father is dying.

Hurls offers him the chance to fly back to camp, to take the first trip back to Abu Dhabi and fly home. But he faces the job with dignity and commitment, finishing the day’s work with a smile on his face, shaking our hands, thanking us for flying with him.

Top bloke. That I might grow to emulate him in the future, both personally and professionally.


Apr 14 2011


Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 8:45 am

A post more for my colleagues back home than most of my readers, but for those of you who are sitting back going “Oooo-ooooohhh! Check out spangle pants swanning around in the Emirates. Must be nice to get put up in posh hotels all the time.”

This is my bunk. That red stripey thing at the bottom is Flopsy’s pillow. Everytime I stretch out, I kick Flopsy in the head.

The Hilton, it ain’t.


Apr 13 2011


Tag: ADDC 2011,UncategorizedKal @ 2:40 pm


Before we head out to the Desert I’m cornered by Sean, Gus and Hurls at the pre-race cocktail bash (it’s a hard life, but…)

“We were wondering what you were expecting to do this week?”

Because at the conclusion of last year, it was recommended that I be trained to “dual role”. That is, become sufficiently genned up on the search and rescue side of things that I could sit in either seat on a helo. Either in the back as a medic, or next to the pilot as the SAR crewman, liaising with Rally Control, managing navigation to and from incidents and being responsible for the safety of the medical team and patients while they work in and around the aircraft.

This is not a small undertaking, nor a small honour to be invited.

“I’m hoping to take on some dual role training, if possible…but if you need me as a medic I’m perfectly happy to take that on. Whatever’s needed.”

They explain a plan of action. We have four aircraft at our disposal. The first three will operate as standard search and rescue helos, while the fourth is commandeered by the press. The press aircraft spends most of its time chasing the race leaders, shooting film and photo for major sports networks.

However, in the past these aircraft have been under our jurisdiction, meaning that when they’re needed for medical or rescue response work, the press have to take a back seat or, in extreme cases be jettisoned at a crash site with some basic survival supplies and collected later.

“This year the press have their own helo, but we want a man on it just in case we need it. That crewman will liaise with SAR control and the press themselves, passing details of crashes and incidents to them so they can get exciting footage. If, however, we need more medics or more muscle on the ground at an incident, we’ll task that aircraft to back up teams to assist.
We were wondering if you’d like to take this on.”

“With who?”


I’m thrilled and terrified all at once. I spend the next day punching GPS coordinates into my phone, checking and rechecking procedures and protocols. Wayne sets me straight –

“If you fuck up, we all fuck up. We’re a team. We’ll look after you.”

I hope so…

Apr 13 2011

Slip, Slap, Slop

Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 10:15 am

Brent layers on the high SPF for another day in the sun and still turns up at the HLS with globs of white cream on his face.

“Dude…you missed a bit.”


“Nope…still covered…”


“Is it gone?”

The team just laugh.


“Ahhhh…screw you guys.”

Apr 10 2011

Shuttle Bus

Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 10:15 pm


The HLS is a kilometre away from the camp this year. A click over a massive dune, with a gatch track and drifting sand spits to contend with.

Each morning a member of the team, often Anne the Admin Goddess, ferries kit and teams back and forth over the hill.

While we wait for her next departure, there’s little to do but stand around and make rude gestures at each other.

This is Fish.

People pay him thousands of pounds to look after them.


Apr 10 2011

Dinner Queue

Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 2:15 pm


Every night we join the line for food, its fine as long as you like salad, houmous, mystery meat and, bizarrely, pasta carbonara.

Its filling and there’s lots of it.

And thats about that.

Apr 09 2011


Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 4:10 am


The hub of our day to day operations is the clinic, a small portacabin which Sarah and Shereen run with razor efficiency. While the rest of us are out hot dogging on aircraft, or smashing across the dunes in 4x4s, these two are quietly, diligently seeing walk in patients. We see cord trauma, long bone and skull fractures and acute dehydration in the field. These gals see diarrhoea, headaches, fevers, soft tissue injuries, sand in the eyes and insomnia. They’re inundated with catering and support staff who grab at the chance to take advantage of free medical care, bringing chronic problems to the clinic in the hope they’ll be miraculously cured by “good medicine” – “I have headaches for fourteen years. Maybe you give me injection?”

Each day a medic from the team is assigned to clinic duty to assist Shereen and Sarah. On my first DC we had no clinic management, it was just run by whichever medick wasn’t flying that day. This new system is a great improvement and lets me weasel my way into conversations more often had my GPs than the trauma and acute medicine doctors I’m used to dealing with. As a paramedic I very rarely discharge people on scene after treatment and in those cases only for a tightly prescribed set of conditions. WOrking in the clinic gives me a chance to practice skills so banal that other medics on the team moan about them. But see, I do prehospital trauma care everyday. What I don’t do is aspirating and dressing blisters, assessing tissue infections and prescribing topical antibiotics, nursing patients for a few hours at a time, finding a broken rib and saying “Yeah you’ll be fine, but come back if this, this or that happens.” rather than “Let’s take you to hospital and let the doctor have a look at you.”

It’s scary and exciting, far more professionally unsettling to me than smashed up people.

Sean often describes prehospital work as “the sharp end” or medicine. If thats true, I’ve had a great time at the dull and fluffy end.

In addition to all this medical nonsense, one corner of the clinic holds a fridge and kettle. A brew is always welcome, even when its 50 degrees outside and towards the end of the day the bottles of isotonic rehydration solution slowly dwindle and make room for…other rehydration solutions. That medics have to drink. At night. So they can….work.
Yeah. Lets leave it at that.


Apr 07 2011


Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 8:59 pm


Every racer carries one of these in their car. An iridium satellite tracking system that follows each unit in minute detail. If a car or bike rolls over, suffers a sudden deceleration or major impact, these bad boys automatically alarm at the Command and Control unit to despatch an aircraft.

This year I am, hopefully, running a press aircraft and as such was issued a personal GPS tracker. At the competitors’ briefing I was handed this suspect looking package, all taped up batteries and wiring. I wouldn’t try to take it into an airport, let alone onto a plane.

“Your Iritrack…it’s belt and braces really, since you’re tracked anyway, but if you need us to watch you closely or the aircraft goes down it’s a useful thing to have with you”

That’s what they tell me. I’m reassured until I look down into the packaging.


Apr 07 2011

Just tell me what to do

Tag: ADDC 2011Kal @ 6:30 am

There have been challenges this year. Operationally and medically. The move to a new bivouac site has meant that Sean and Gus have been running back and forth across the camp firefighting while trying to run Rally Control at the same time.

At one point Gus walks in, looks around the clinic and leaves.

“He looked lost.”

“Maybe he needs to find Jesus.”

“He probably could, you know?”

“Yeah, as long as he was tasked properly…”


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