On 20 March 2013, myself and my twin sister Julia will begin an exciting adventure trekking to Everest base camp. We are volunteering as part of a medical research expedition organised by Xtreme Everest, a dedicated team of intensive care doctors, nurses and scientists, who are looking at the effects of low oxygen on the human body. Ultimately the research will guide the best treatment for patients in intensive care. It’s a hugely exciting project and we are so proud to be a part of it.
You may have seen the BBC Horizon programme about Xtreme Everest’s first expedition back in 2007, ‘Doctors in the Death Zone’ - that first expedition allowed the team to hone their research, so that on subsequent trips they can focus their resources and apply them to a larger pool of volunteers, to hopefully reveal invaluable data.
The team want to expand their research to look at epigenetics, to shed light on how genetics determine how the human body copes with low oxygen levels. And for that they need identical twin volunteers – and that’s where we both come in! We found out about the trip through the King’s College of London Department of Twin Research, with whom we are registered alongside 10,000 other twins.
Below is more information on what the research is all about, and why it’s important to each and every one of us...
In the UK, one in five of us will end up in intensive care at some point in our life. Of those, 40% will die. Despite intensive care being one of the most sophisticated areas of hospital care, even now in the 21st century, there is still limited understanding of why some people survive and some die. Hypoxia - lack of oxygen reaching the body’s vital organs - is a common problem for patients in an intensive care unit.
Intensive care represents the knife edge between life and death, and treatment of extreme illnesses requires cutting edge. The Xtreme Everest team will conduct experiments at high altitude in order to develop novel therapies to improve the survival rates of their patients.
In Spring 2013, the Xtreme Everest team will be trekking up to Base Camp of Mount Everest, Nepal, and will conduct numerous tests on themselves and volunteers (including sherpas, identical twins and children!) to further the research into how the human body copes and adapts to extreme environmental conditions. Ultimately, it is hoped that the knowledge gained from these tests will go directly to improve survival rates of patients in intensive care.
Xtreme Everest is a not for profit organisation, led by doctors and scientists from UCL, University of Southampton and Duke University in the United States, conducting this innovative, cutting edge research. The expedition itself will cost a £1.5 million, but in order to survive, Xtreme Everest needs funds. Therefore we are calling on your help and generosity and hope you can make a small contribution to this extremely important research. Xtreme Everest 2 is supported by 'Xtreme', a fund within UCLH Charity. Money donated via this page will be ring-fenced to support the Xtreme Everest 2 expedition.
It is worthy to remember the distressing odds that one in five of us will end up in intensive care at some point in our lives – but the aim of this research is to dramatically increase the odds of patient survival.
We will hugely appreciate any donation to this very worthy cause – as who knows, one day you or a loved one may directly benefit from the research.
If you want to find out more about the project and the science behind it, please visit the Xtreme Everest 2 website: www.xtreme-everest.co.uk
A little bit more about us…
I have worked as an ecologist for local government in Hampshire for over five years now. I’m very interested in biological sciences and related research. As well as socialising a lot with friends and family, my favourite past times include bird watching, travel, photography, hiking and keeping fit, and cooking (and eating)!
I can’t wait to get my walking boots on and take on the challenge of the trek to Base Camp. The opportunity to contribute directly to science is inspirational and I know this will push me on to the end when the trek gets tough.
I’m also a trained ecologist and, based in Sussex, have worked for the government’s agency for the natural environment for four years, where I’m also an active trade unionist. I never thought I had the nerves to try something as scary and exciting as this expedition, not to mention the weird and wonderful tests we have to go through (which all the doctors and sherpas do, too) - but when the opportunity came up, I couldn’t resist – to contribute to science whilst visiting arguably the most impressive place in the world, and having the chance to see the local people and how they live, a privilege indeed! I just hope me and Becky make it to Base Camp ok and the expedition is a success – but I know the team will really look after us, not forgetting we’ll be luckier than most trekkers by having access to all the medical support we could hope for on such a journey. I can’t wait!
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