The dangers of diseases from the real world and the one inside my head

By Henry Miller

Here goes on my first ever attempt at writing a blog, apologies any lack of crispness or finesse in my writing but it may have become apparent from my previous silence on the publicity front that such works of art don’t come naturally to me. Despite this relative secrecy there’s been an awful lot going on behind the scenes so far on the medical front! In fact there are times I’ve felt overwhelmed by the vast number of things on my to-do list. All regarding the potential risks we could be facing in the Zanskar Valley. This was hammered home by a recent, rather in depth and slightly heated discussion I had with close family that made evident the fact there’s been no small amount of worrying on my behalf and from my mother. Fingers crossed I fielded all questions and allayed all fears but then who can tell when it’s loving parents we’re talking about…


To cut a long story short India is going to present dozens of new risks to our lives and I’d say it’s my job to make sure everyone returns home safely. So far this has been fairly straightforward for we’ve not gone anywhere more dangerous than London, okay the relative dangers of these two places are up for debate but perhaps another time. However I’ve no doubt it will all hot up in the field!


Meanwhile we’re all hitting the travel clinics hard at the moment and getting more pricks, jabs and needles than I think I’ve ever had before in my life. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Cholera, Typhoid, the dreaded Rabies are all real risks and the more I learn about these diseases in pathology lectures the more terrified I get that one of us might contract them. It just makes the clinical aspects of my course much more personal when I realise these potentially fatal diseases could be just around the corner, perhaps every corner from when we get off the plane in Delhi until we’re back through customs in the UK. Thankfully others, such as Japanese Encephalitis, are mostly off my radar of knowledge and so don’t evoke quite the same level of anxiety the others do. Did anyone ever tell you only one person has ever survived Rabies after presenting any symptoms?


Fortunately we live in a world of medical miracles and so I’ve packed off all the team to their GPs, nurses or other medical professional with a list of what they need injected into their arms in order for me to achieve some level of piece of mind. A recent statement that “cholera isn’t that hard to treat” left me wondering… On the bright side, seeing as Hannah, Olivia and Charlotte are all better travelled than I am, everyone else is further along the path to immunological safety than me so far.


Another more mild concern is about the vaccinations themselves. Each comes with no small list of side effects that may or may not strike at any time! As I sit here with 4 puncture holes in my arms I can only think, every time faint nausea, weakness, itchiness or in fact any sort of prologue for an aliment creeps up on me, that I could soon be coming down with something before I’ve even set foot on the plane. No I’m not a hypochondriac, despite first appearances, but the prospect of being ill in the run up to exams is rather scary. I suppose at least statistics is on my side for the majority of the side effects only present themselves in a tiny fraction of the populations. At least, according to averages, I am safe.


And so concludes my first written account of the progress so far and should you never hear from me again don’t fear the worst as worrying never helped anyone. I’m in little doubt there’ll be lots more news to come from the first aid and medical corner of this ring. Here are a couple of riveting spoilers if you dare read on…


The next instalment of first aid training looms, and further on I’ll no doubt have an interesting time acquiring all the drugs for our comprehensive first aid kit which I’m determined to do through entirely legal means. Then we’ll see if disaster dose strike before we even set off and how what other risks will we face, at least in our imaginations, between now and September.


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