Looking after the Dakar family...

Led by Dr. Florence Pommerie, the medical team at the 2017 Dakar Rally comprises a field hospital, an air ambulance, seven helicopters and 32 ground vehicles – ten of which are ambulances.

The personnel is made up of nurses, nurse-anaesthetists, doctors, emergency physicians, orthopaedic surgeons and visceral organ specialists... There is a total of 60 medical staff at the 2017 Dakar spread at the bivouac, and at the beginning and end of special stages, in the helicopters and on the road sections. They are easy to spot thanks to their blue T-shirts marked ‘Medical’.

Around half of them remain at the emergency centre that can be found in each bivouac. “We have at our disposal a mini radiology and ultrasound centre. We are able to carry out surgical procedures under general anaesthetic and resuscitation, but that is very rare. Here, we prefer to stabilise patients before they are hospitalised. Ahead of the rally, we conducted recces of the various hospitals in the region and made arrangements with them.”

The medical staff have already had to intervene on many occasions since the beginning of the rally, predominantly to deal with fractures. On Thursday morning, the defending motorbike winner, Toby Price, broke his femur in a fall.

“The medical centre is not reserved solely for competitors. We similarly take care of anybody associated with the rally who has access to the bivouac and requires our assistance, and we occasionally have to deal with stomach bug outbreaks...”

This year, with six days of the event taking place at high altitude, mobile medical centres have been established within and at the end of stages. The motorcyclists are particularly susceptible to hypothermia and oxygen deficiency.

“In truth, there is no miracle cure for altitude sickness. In the most serious cases, we can administer a drug to counter the effects, or else we give them coca herbal tea to drink, which seems to work reasonably well.”

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