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Royal Free Hospital staff climb Everest to research effect of low oxygen levels on intensive care patients

PUBLISHED: 17:00 06 April 2013

Radiotherapy physicist Peter Faulkner, 28, is part of the Royal Free Hospital team that will climb to Everest base camp

Radiotherapy physicist Peter Faulkner, 28, is part of the Royal Free Hospital team that will climb to Everest base camp

Archant

Six members of staff and an honorary consultant at the Royal Free Hospital will climb the world’s highest mountain to help research the effects of reduced oxygen on the body.

The Everest climbers: (Back row from left) Aine Burns, Pei San Chan, Jennifer Morris, (front row from left) Alistair Jones, Peter Faulkner, Breda AthanThe Everest climbers: (Back row from left) Aine Burns, Pei San Chan, Jennifer Morris, (front row from left) Alistair Jones, Peter Faulkner, Breda Athan

The team of seven will make the 23-day trek, climbing 17,225ft to Mount Everest base camp to provide data for research on hypoxia, or low oxygen levels in the bloodstream.

The research aims to provide a better understanding of treatment for patients in intensive care who often suffer the same hypoxic condition as do healthy people at high altitudes.

Jennifer Morris, 38, a chief pharmacy technician in intensive care at the Royal Free, who will be making the journey, said: “The only other time they would be able to collect this data would be from the actual patients in intensive care, which is obviously difficult to do as it’s an emotional time for the patient and their family.”

The University College London-based research project is called Xtreme Everest2. It will study healthy people under extreme conditions to gain a better understanding of the issues in intensive care.

Chief pharmacy technician Jennifer Morris, 38, will make the trek after being  funded by an internal Royal Free grantChief pharmacy technician Jennifer Morris, 38, will make the trek after being funded by an internal Royal Free grant

Daniel Martin, a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in anaesthesia and critical care medicine at UCL and the Royal Free Hospital, is leading the expedition.

Though the seven members of staff will not be attempting to reach the summit of Everest, the altitude of the Nepal base camp provides an ideal stress on a healthy human body to recreate hypoxia.

“The point of the excursion is to provide the team with data as they need volunteers to get this information,” said Jennifer.

“I’m excited to get to base camp and make the journey, and if the timing works out it will be my birthday when we arrive there.”

Three of the staff members who will undertake the climb won funding after being selected as part of an internal competition but the other three are completely self-funded.

Peter Faulkner, 28, a radiotherapy physicist, is one of the three staff members paying for the trip themselves.

“I’ve never done anything like this and I think it’s a great way to explore a new part of the world while really benefitting the care for patients and their recovery back home,” he said.

The effect of reduced oxygen on the climbers will be measured at various altitudes in order to determine why some people cope with low oxygen better than others.

“Ideally, this could be used to discover if we can aid people in intensive care suffering from hypoxia and determine whether there is something genetic or a substance that could improve treatment,” said Peter.

The team will set off on April 13.


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