Treating and meeting the stars of Rio Olympics – a Lancaster doctor’s insight

Dr John Davies at the starting line in the Olympic Stadium.

Dr John Davies at the starting line in the Olympic Stadium.

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Former Royal Lancaster Infirmary consultant anaesthetist Dr John Davies is volunteering in the medical team at the Rio Olympics. Here’s part six of his diary...

Another day in the stadium, or rather, night, as this was a late shift, and we’ve seen one of the climaxes as Usain Bolt takes Gold, again.

Dr John Davies snatched this photo of Usain Bolt as he passed him in the arena.

Dr John Davies snatched this photo of Usain Bolt as he passed him in the arena.

His tour of triumph around the stadium seemed to take forever, but after we brought in our kit, and cleared up the base, we realised that he had just started.

The sprint start is at the entrance to the field right outside our base, and we trooped out there to find that the starting blocks for Bolt and his competitors were still in place.

The temptation was too great, and yes, I have stood, or crouched, in Bolt’s own, golden-shoed footsteps!

But more was happening at the opposite corner, Bolt was in the stands, giving interviews to the media.

Our knowledge of the geography let us know where he would come down, where another throng of hacks waited to see him.

Being a volunteer does give some privileges, and we were just across a barrier, with not a journalist between us.

But enough of fandom and fantasy. I’ve mentioned the tension that the athletes suffer, their stress relieving jogs and jigs as they wait to perform.

I was the base doctor when a call came – athlete arriving! They were still in competition so with the reminder to be cautious about drug treatment. “Abdominal pain and vomiting”.

The things you give up for medicine! I was watching Andy Murray, five sets all and deuce in the final gold medal game, when our casualty arrives.

Taller than me, this runner was fresh from a heat, and all they wanted to do was lie on our nice cool floor and retch but a rapid history and examination excluded abdominal pathology.

Persuaded that they would soon get cold, we got them on to a trolley and under a blanket, when secondary survey found nothing save rapid breathing.

A short relaxation exercise restored normality – it was “just” the stress of the highest level athletic competition, and as we handed them back to their anxious but relieved coach, I got a hug and a ‘pin’!

Pins are small brooches, originally team and country identifiers in the days before massive security, and have become a way that athletes thank volunteers for their services.

Physios have lanyards weighed down, medics don’t get many as we treat few so I shall treasure mine!