Meet Damo Liddy, official medic to the Trans-Timor Trek
Dysentery, sprains, infections and dehydration – it will be all in a day’s work Damo Liddy, the official medic for the inaugural 100km Trans-Timor Trek. Damo’s job will be to help keep the 11 trekkers taking part in the healthy and mobile as they traverse Timor-Leste on the 13-day heart health hike in July and August 2017. The Queensland paramedic has treated celebrities and centenarians, delivered babies and once got asked to help a cow having a seizure, so he’s prepared for anything!
What does the role of trek medic involve?
In a trek medic’s perfect tour, you carry a kit full of everything you may need to use, but never have to open your kit. I am prepared to provide varied levels of first aid care for our team and for any locals that may need our attention along the way.
What sort of medical issues are you expecting to see?
The risks we face as a trekking team vary, but include exposure to mosquito-borne illness; dysentery; dehydration; electrolyte illnesses; sprains, strains and musculo-skeletal injuries; and blisters. And also potentially some of the most emotionally-challenging moments people may have had in their adventure-bound lives! I am prepared for anything, yet extremely hopeful for the individual team members’ sakes, that none of it occurs. Our goal at Earth Trails is to get every team member from Dili in the north to the beach at Betano in the south of Timor-Leste with an amazing story to tell.
Will it be difficult to be the official medic on a trip where there are so many other paramedics? Do medics make good patients?
Medics are all individuals, and therefore all come with their own personalities, attitudes and levels of resilience.
I believe that everyone has something to offer in 95 per cent of all circumstances in life, and so I plan on acting as the glue that helps this team bond together and look after each other throughout our amazing time together in Timor-Leste.
In my time on-road working as a paramedic, I have treated celebrities, famous athletes, my own supervisors and their families, and plenty of doctors, nurses and key community figures, as well as delivered babies and treated three separate 104-year-old patients. I have no challenge providing care to anyone that requires my attention throughout this trek. It is almost impossible to speculate if our team of medics themselves will be good, bad or indifferent as patients if things turn bad for any one individual on the team. In my personal experience, tough times tend to produce unlikely heroes, and you can see amazing things happen when a team work together for a common purpose. Earth Trails has already laid down a proven track record of success in every previous expedition region they have focused on, and I have a feeling that Timor-Leste is going to quickly become one of their absolute best.
What made you decide to volunteer for the role?
I am inspired by the work that the team at Earth Trails does, and have a strong desire to continue to contribute toward good outcomes for underprivileged people whenever I can afford to do so. Sometimes that means raising money and paying for equipment, medications, infrastructure and basic needs, and sometimes that means simply donating your time to contribute toward good outcomes. This trip is a bit of a dream for me, to be able to support a team of people with my knowledge and dedication, that are supporting such a great cause themselves.
Every day in a developing world country in my previous traveling experiences has been a life changing day, with the things you see, and the lessons that the circumstances of these peoples lives accidently teach you.
It is my first ever trip to Timor Leste, but the passion that trek leader Mick Stuth from trek organiser Earth Trails Adventures has for the region when he speaks about it, makes me feel like I almost already owe this region something, before we even lay down footprints on the Trans-Timor Trek trail.
I feel honored to have been selected for the medic role on the Earth Trails Trans-Timor Trek.
Why were you keen to support the trek for East Timor Hearts Fund?
I think the work East Timor Hearts Fund does is incredible, and I can speak from personal experience also in saying that it is one of the biggest gifts you could ever receive in this world when you get to save someone’s life through the simple actions you take performing the work that you do. ETHF regularly saves the lives of young East Timorese who otherwise would never have had a second chance. The donation of my time and efforts is a simple way for me to say thank you to the East Timor Hearts Fund team for their incredibly generous gift to Timor-Leste.
What's the strangest/most interesting thing that's happened to you as a wilderness medic?
Several years ago we were on a trek in the deep north of New Zealand when we came across a giant eagle trapped in a bear claw wildlife trap. He had one of his legs caught in a large sprung metal trap and looked exhausted and in severe distress. We carefully approached him and he tried to fly away, but couldn’t move to far. We were very keen to let the bird go free, so we set about doing that, but we had no idea about how to use the trap. A few of us just wrestled it open and the eagle skipped off through the scrub, made a few awkward flaps of his giant wings and then soared off into the sky above us. We were so excited to be a part of that. The coolest part was that the eagle hung around and hovered above us for almost the next half an hour, almost as if to say thank you to us for freeing him. That was a pretty special moment in life, even though it wasn’t your typical medic thing.
While on the theme of animals too, I have also been asked to stop a cow from having a seizure at a camp draft event in central Queensland. It is nice to think that people put that much faith in what you can do as a medic, that you could stop a traumatic seizure in a 700kg animal! There is never a dull day in your life as a paramedic. I am sure during the long nights on our Trans-Timor Trek we will all share stories about then random moments our jobs have delivered us throughout the years.
What's the most used item in your medic kit?
On a trip like this, I think the blister tape will get a solid workout. Not everyone has the opportunity in their everyday life to apply the right preparation for these types of trips, and the weather is always the unpredictable factor on these excursions. It can be glorious for the entire time, and people will still get banged up, but when it decides to pour its heart out with rain like only the tropics know how to deliver, the way we humans move and the way we negotiate trekking hazards, changes dramatically, and it opens the team up to a significantly increased risk of rubs, bumps and bust ups. Not everything is minor trauma based issues though. Mental health and medical condition management are just as important to keep a good handle on throughout the trek. Almost everyone on the Trans-Timor Trek has some form of medical background, so I would imagine that most of our team will take pride (and some kind of bragging rights) on not needing any assistance for the duration of our trek.
This is your first trip to Timor-Leste – what are you expecting?
I have endeavored to do a fair amount of research into the region, and also into the amazing service that East Timor Hearts Fund supplies. I don’t want to turn up as the stranger in the crowd, and be unprepared for what we have ahead of us.
As a trek medic, you just have to prepare yourself to deal with every circumstance as it arises, and this has always proven to be the best approach. To just have a rough idea of the potential for complications, but at the same time, to not have any preconceived ideas or expectations of what may or may not occur.
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