Cambridgeshire

North Pole explorer's life saved by doctor 2,500 miles away

Dr Rod Mackenzie (l) with polar patient Justin Miles
Image caption Dr Rod Mackenzie (l) looks at the expedition map with polar patient Justin Miles

A hospital doctor has told how he carried out a life-saving examination by telephone on a polar explorer 2,500 miles (4,000km) away.

Justin Miles and Alex Hibbert were heading across sea ice to the North Pole when Mr Miles slipped and fell.

Mr Miles, from Hutton in Cambridgeshire, planned to rest and carry on.

But a call to Dr Rod Mackenzie back in Cambridgeshire revealed the pain was possibly a life-threatening hernia.

During the 20 minute conversation over a satellite telephone, Dr Mackenzie advised Mr Miles to come home as soon as possible.

Image caption Justin Miles during the cancelled expedition to the North Pole

'Call in a rescue'

He had suffered a severe epigastric hernia.

It brought an end to what was meant to be a three month expedition to find a new route to the North Pole.

Had he carried on, it is likely he would have suffered blood poisoning.

"We are quite used to being called about unusual things," said Dr Mackenzie, a hospital accident and emergency consultant.

"But I was a bit surprised when I got the phone call.

"I did have to get my head around exactly where they were and what the problem was."

Asked whether he would have turned back had he not made the call, Mr Miles said: "Possibly not. Not immediately anyway.

Image caption The three month expedition was meant to find a new route to the North Pole

'Risking others' lives'

"I probably would have put it down to a muscular problem," he said, "rested for a little while and then tried to continue.

"And obviously the further we continue, the further away I am from help.

"And then it gets to the stage when I have to call in a rescue, and when I do that I'm risking somebody else's life."

Mr Miles is awaiting surgery.

He and Mr Hibbert hope to attempt the 900-mile expedition from the Greenland town of Qaanaaq once again later this year

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