Fire To Ice will be the first time a non-military burns survivor will attempt
to reach the South Pole by completing Shackleton’s unfinished journey.
In January 2010 Rob ‘Gaz’ Small’s life changed forever. Whilst living in Zanzibar, a generator exploded and set him on fire. With 43% Total Body Surface Area burn, Rob spent 10 days with next to no burns medical care and felt his life slipping away. A commercial airline flew him to the UK, expecting him to be dead on arrival. However, he survived and was transported to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. With only a 27% chance of survival the staff fought to save his life. He was put into an induced coma for 2 weeks and spent a month in intensive care. After a year in hospitals, he relearned to walk and started to piece his life back together. Rob was introduced to a charity for burn survivors, that provided help and the support. After 3 years and 30 operations, he is finally able to give back. The aim of the From Fire to Ice expedition is to raise awareness of the Dan’s Fund for Burns charity and to generate funds for burn survivors and their medical providers.
During 2016, the team will be flown from Punta Arenas at the southern tip of South America to the Antarctic base camp at Union Glacier. After a few days further preparation we shall fly by Twin Otter (aircraft) to latitude 88’23”S. – the furthest point South that Shackleton reached.
The team will then live under canvas, travelling on ski, towing sledges of supplies 112 statute miles to the South Pole. Our journey will traverse enormous ice fields and glaciers, finally ascending to the polar plateau at almost 10,000 feet. The wind will always be against us, providing a remorseless minus 50-degree wind-chill. For a novice team, the challenge is huge - but possible.
Donations raised from the From Fire to Ice expedition to the South Pole will be used towards establishing a peer and professional support organisation for adult burn survivors. No such regional organisation exists and successful establishment would act as a template for a similar national structure. Although most adult burns services in the UK have attempted to set up support groups for their patients over the years, they have struggled to keep them going and most have collapsed. This is primarily due to a lack of NHS funding directed at this area to allow co-ordinated and sustained management and communication. Charities such as Dan’s Fund for Burns often act as a focal point for enquiries from burn survivors that have an emotional or psychological component but are neither qualified nor able to respond appropriately.
Significant funds are required by the burns services in the South East of England initially to support two professionals for three years to set up this programme and to recruit, train and oversee the peer volunteers. The programme would aim to not only support adult burn survivors but also their wider networks (friends, families, employers) who have been affected by their injury, as well as adults who were burned when they were children. The intention would be to create a self-sustaining lifecycle in which burn survivors receive support from their peers and then go onto become peer supporters themselves. However without a robust infrastructure this sort of self-sustaining cycle has so far failed to become established in the UK.
Rob Small and Polly Miller both have first-hand experience of the years of support required after a burn injury to regain their confidence and to get back on their feet. Please help them in their efforts to assist in creating a sustainable support organisation for burn survivors in the UK.
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