I am a 22-year-old final year medical student studying at the University of Aberdeen but based in Inverness.
I am due to graduate as a doctor in June 2021 and will hopefully remaining working in the Highlands. Outside of medicine, I am very active, particularly wild swimming and climbing Munros when time and weather allow.
In June 2019 I had my first NJ tube and in October 2020 I finally had surgery to have a jejunostomy tube inserted (this was delayed due to COVID as initially it should have been March 2020).
For me, whilst at the time the decision to start tube feeding felt like a step backwards, in hindsight it was the best decision I could have taken. I had been in and out of hospital with repeated episodes of starvation ketoacidosis for almost 2 years before I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. Since having my tube, I have climbed over 20 Munros, swam in lochs, rivers and the sea more times than I can count, wild camped and been away on holiday. All these things I did before I was ill, and now I can do them again with the confidence that I won't pass out from low blood sugar halfway round! It hasn't come without its challenges, but these mainly revolve around other people's preconceptions about what they think I can or can't do. For example, people offer to carry my shopping without realising that earlier that day I'd run 10k. However, this is much better now I have a J-tube as the general public can't see it.
Summer 2021 will be the last one before I start a full-time job and my sister joins the Army, we wanted to do something memorable. I have always dreamt of going to the Andes and I love mountaineering so when the opportunity presented itself for my sister and I to climb Nevado Pisco as part of an expedition in Peru, I jumped at the chance.
I have been in touch with the company running the expedition and in collaboration with the expedition doctor started to plan what I'll need to take into consideration. Firstly, the extra weight required for 15 days of feed and water which will equate to almost 45kg, so not only for the plane but also having an extra pack animal to carry it to base camp. Secondly there's the lack of electricity needed to charge the feeding pumps. I have access to a solar panel charger and power pack but contacted Nutricia as I will need a cable to fit the pump on one end but then USB on the other in order to connect my pump to these.
Finally, there is the question of needing to find out how the pumps will work and charge at both high altitude and low temperatures for prolonged periods, equally whether the feed will freeze or not. Aside from that it's just basic things like how to keep my jejunostomy site clean and free of infection. Although on the plus side, it would be very difficult for me to catch some of the usual travel related illness like traveller's diarrhoea as I won't be able to eat any contaminated food or drink.
I have had lots of contact with the Homeward service as they have helped ensure I have the right amount of feed and water at all time despite me switching between home and university addresses. This has meant I haven't had to try and co-ordinate transporting this on the plane home for the holidays as well as helping get me extra pumps so I can go camping. I'd also like to mention the delivery drivers who help carry the boxes up to my door (it is a super steep hill up from my drive to my door and all the other delivery drivers just leave any parcels at the bottom).