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Intensive care specialist to swim English Channel

12 July 2017
Academic swimming Channel to raise funds for ICU follow-up clinic

An intensive care specialist will attempt to swim the English Channel to raise funds and awareness for an Australia-first ICU follow-up clinic.

Dr Lane at Bondi Beach 

Intensive care specialist Dr Stuart Lane is set to swim the English Channel and raise money to establish Australia’s first follow-up clinic for people discharged from intensive care.

“Evidence shows follow-up clinics for people discharged from intensive care units can improve their health and financial burdens, but these services aren’t available in Australia,” says Associate Professor Lane from Sydney Medical School.

Each year, some 127,000 Australians are admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and of those discharged, about two-thirds experience long-term complications, including motor weakness, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and post-traumatic-stress-disorder.

Dr Lane says ICU patients and their families face many challenges when they leave hospital.

“The impact of being in intensive care often results in lower quality of life and persistent physical and emotional symptoms described as ‘Post Intensive Care Syndrome’. Families of ICU are also affected by these experiences, which can involve physical, psychological and financial strain,” he says.

Critical illness can also result in chronic health problems, which is one of the biggest health and financial challenges facing Australia, adds Dr Lane.

“Spending on chronic disease cost $27 billion in 2008-09, equating to 36 percent of allocated health expenditure. ICU follow-up clinics may lessen these physical, emotional and financial strains by helping people soon after they leave hospital.”

The intensive care specialist says he hopes this will be the first of many clinics to help Australian ICU patients and will operate from the University of Sydney’s Nepean Clinical School.

“These units are happening across the world, especially in North America and Europe. Our Nepean Clinical school already has the infrastructure and personnel available through the University outpatients building and medical staff,” Dr Lane says.

The UK-born doctor was a competitive swimmer for many years and says swimming the Channel is a challenge he’s always wanted to take on.

“I lived next to the sea all my life before I moved to Sydney in 2002. There is so much tradition and history between the two countries, and swimming the Channel is the ultimate open water challenge. It has always been there in the back of my mind, and it’s an itch that needs scratching,” he says.

“I’m currently training in a few locations including Glenbrook pool, the University’s Camperdown campus pool, and I’ve been acclimatising with ocean swims at Bondi beach. I’ve been covering between 30-40 kilometres a week for the past year and 40-50 kilometres for the past few months. Recently I completed 66 kilometres in a week to really increase my training load.”

Although an experienced swimmer, Dr Lane says there will be a number of challenges for him to face across his 21 mile swim.

“I will get cold after a while, and my whole body, especially my shoulders and arms will be aching. But the most difficult part will be the mental strain and loneliness, however my support crew led by my wife Kathleen, will make a huge difference here,” he says.

Dr Lane plans to start his swim between 28 July and 6 August if weather permits. His pilot boat, Anastasia, can be tracked on the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation website as it crosses the Channel.

His crowdfunding effort, which aims to raise $1,000 per mile swum, can be viewed here: https://crowdfunding.sydney.edu.au/project/6890

Elliott Richardson

Assistant Media Advisor (Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy)