Oxford University Cave Club
Proceedings 10 : "Pozu del Xitu"
|OUCC Proc 10 Contents
by Richard Gregson
In the 1981 expedition, no-one was badly injured or seriously ill. This is how the Club Medical Officer helped to bring this healthy state of affairs about.
Most of the things that prevent people from caving on expeditions (apart from laziness) are not serious - of the serious things that can happen, the most likely is an accident: the most likely sort of accident is a road accident (if you cave safely!). The reason to really worry about road accidents is not only the inconvenience to the expedition, but also because of the expense that may be involved. A lorry driver was recently released after four months in jail because an Arab driver killed himself driving into the back of his stationary truck. He was jailed because he was not insured. The most important part of expedition medicine is adequate insurance for the members: imagine the cost of helicoptering a casualty from the advance camp to an NHS hospital - you might not want to take advantage of local hospitals, especially if you're outside Europe.
The next most important thing is immunity from infectious diseases. By far the most important of these is malaria, because you are so likely to get if you don't take anti-malarial tablets, and because it is serious. Other diseases can be prevented e.g. typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis, rabies. Smallpox inoculation is now no longer required for any country. Of all these 'jabs' the most important is polio: be certain that every member is immune: the other diseases are either treatable, not serious, or (in the case of rabies) preventable after the event.
Most of the problems encountered are very minor, but nevertheless they can prevent people from caving. The things which did this were knees, elbows, festering cuts, sores and piles. We had few cases of diarrhoea - probably because we cooked nearly all we ate and drank spring water.
In summary, we suffered from only simple ailments in Spain. We had quite an ample medicine chest, and also a reasonable rescue kit (I.V. fluids and antibiotics, powerful analgesics, splints, superb sleeping bags, stretcher, Paul's tubing, soup etc.). We used the medicine chest for very minor ailments, and never used the rescue kit at all. Safe caving is worth a thousand rescue kits, and was the most important feature of our remaining well in Spain. We were also well because we were Insured and because we were Inoculated.