Intensive care specialist Dr Stuart Lane is now one of just 1,760 people to have successfully swum the English Channel since 1875.
Dr Lane attempted the swim as part of his effort to raise money to establish Australia’s first follow-up clinic for people discharged from an intensive care unit.
“Evidence shows follow-up clinics for people discharged from intensive care 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 (ICU) 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.
Associate Professor 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 the experience, 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 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 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 because of the University outpatients building and their staff.”
The UK-born doctor was a competitive swimmer for many years and says swimming the Channel was a challenge he’d always wanted to undertake.
“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 was an itch that needed to be scratched,” he says.
After completing the swim, Dr Lane says there were a number of difficult challenges he had to overcome.
"You don't know when you are going to begin swimming, which makes it very difficult to time preparation and training. I received the call that I was setting off on the Monday evening and after having spent the whole day adjusting to deal with this, I then found out a change of weather meant I'd have an early morning set-off instead.
"I had always thought the day would be enjoyable, and the finish very special. However, the majority of the swim was not pleasant, aside from a few small moments where I really enjoyed it. Once you've started the swim you can't stop or you'll end up going backwards. You have to either continue or get out. It is brutal and unforgiving."
Dr Lane began his swim from Samphire Hoe, Dover in the early hours of 1 August 2017 and landed on Wissant Beach, France at 3:41pm that afternoon, taking over 12 hours and covering approximately 50 kilometres.
So far his crowdfunding effort, which aims to raise $1,000 per mile swum, has raised over $10,000 and is available here: https://crowdfunding.sydney.edu.au/project/6890.