Mike and Ken - Why We Do Research

Ken and Mike
Ken and Mike

It is 2006. Mike Teanby, engineer by trade, but by then working as a manager in a big retail company, reads the Saturday newspaper. An advert to come along as a trekker to Everest Base Camp and in the same time being submitted to medical research, eventually to better understand the mechanisms of human adaptation to lower levels of oxygen, and in the hope to ultimately have patients in Intensive Care benefit from this knowledge, catches his eye. Having spent some time in Intensive Care himself, he feels grateful for the care given and wants to give something back,. His second thoughts are that he will be able to see Mount Everest in real, something he has always wished for since reading Krakauer’s ‘into thin air’. The final ‘tip’ is the security of being surrounded by medics on this trip; he signs up.

It is 2006. Ken Stapleton has been dreaming of facing Mount Everest since he was five years old, when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summited for the first time in history. He reads a different Saturday newspaper, but containing the same advert from Xtreme Everest. In a bold mood he signs up.

Mike and Ken meet each other in their trekking group in April 2007. Instantly they level and team up.

It is now early April 2013. We are sitting outside of the Hotel Sherwi Khangba in Namche, comfortably in the sun, surrounded by stunning peaks. Ken and Mike are on their third Jagged Globe to the Khumbu valley in Nepal, and for the third time linked to Xtreme Everest. In 2009, after a reunion for ‘re-takers’ they decided to sign up again, as the trek would be a few weeks later in the season, enabling to enjoy the natural features differently. Furthermore it would be a little less scientific, with more time to do side ‘walks’ such as the climb to Kala Patar. But still the two hiking friends would happily give up time and money to medical research.

Then Xtreme Everest 2 was announced. Both at the age of 65 were wondering if luck should be pushed again. So far they only struggled with the ramp test in base camp in 2007, and find the daily step test a ‘punishment’. Mike was really badly worn down by diarrhea and vomiting in 2009 but successfully ‘treated’ with a plate of baked beans and tinned mango juice at 4200m, and Ken never had other symptoms of altitude sickness than a lack of appetite. But both times they were struck by the beauty of the surroundings, how special it was to sleep in Everest Base Camp where one can hear the avalanches and feel rocks moving underneath the glacier. Furthermore they express to feel secured by the well equipped medical support, and to experience being part of a special ‘community’. They met again at a meeting in London, and instantly they knew “we are going again”. Ken: ”I feel kind of proud to be a subject, and especially now coming for the third time, it makes it to an honorary block”. He finds it hard to explain: “it is the amazement of medical encapsulation”, “wow!”

Xtreme Everest Old Timers Club

This time Mike felt he wanted to engage people in his expedition. So far he did several presentations about his participation in Xtreme Everest. He put up a poster at work, explaining what the expedition trek was about, and why he participated. He was stunned by the reactions. He was surprised that many people knew relatives that had spent some time in Intensive Care, and the generosity of so many of his colleagues within all layers of the company to donate. Within a fortnight he collected £900, a great support to the research performed by Xtreme Everest. Mike: ”being part of Xtreme Everest has been a fantastic phase in my life, and I am so proud that my colleagues enable me to contribute even more”. Ken can only agree. He collected an extra £400, which he kindly donates on top of his contribution of £500.

Xtreme Everest are amazed by these initiatives, and are very pleased to see that these ‘veterans’ were still amazed by the trek in 2013 and the research involved. Mike: “yesterday we made the best picture of mount Everest of all three trips”. “And Namche now sells really good coffee, and even better chips than back home”, Ken adds. “So far this time, I do not experience a lack in appetite at all”, he smiles. The two ‘pilgrimage’ friends grab their camera to continue their exploration on this lovely, sunny resting day.

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