Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Experiments Continued

“Echo” Mike Stembridge University of Wales Institute Cardiff

Although I’m involved with two studies being headed up by Glen and Andy, I have three studies running of my own. One of these has already been completed and that’s the one I have decided to share with you!
Before Phil got in touch with my supervisor about the trip, my PhD was mainly focused on the development of cardiac mechanics around maturation. Although the opportunity to study the effect of high altitude on cardiac function was extremely exciting I was also keen to continue my maturation theme.  Therefore, I raised the idea of examining the effect of high altitude on cardiac function in the native Sherpa children with Phil.  Phil then (after me nagging him via email from across the pond) managed to make contact with a research collaborator from a previous trip who is the Director of the Khunde Medical Centre, Dr Kami Sherpa.  We invited him to join our research team looking into the effect of increased pulmonary artery pressures on cardiac function and he graciously accepted.

The first stage of data collection actually started in Kathmandu. A contact who previously worked in the University Hospital, Cardiff and now lived in Kathmandu put me in touch with a friend who could arrange for us to visit a school in Kathmandu that had a Sherpa population. So, one morning Joe, Nick and I jumped in a cab and headed across Kathmandu following Tashi on his motorbike. We arrived and the school and managed to get cardiac images using ultrasound on 12 children.  

The second phase was at the hospital in Khunde. After a 4.20am alarm Joe, Nick and I hiked up from Namche Bazar to Khunde where we met Dr Kami. He had done all the hard work by arranging subjects and had us set up in our own room, which we quickly turned into an echo lab. The locals were queuing up waiting for us to scan men, women, boys, girls, dogs and yaks…. But after carefully considering a Yak research project we decided to maintain course and continue with the adolescent boys (If I had scanned a Yak I would have had one up on my colleague from Wales, Eric who was scanned a Shark and a Giraffe). We managed to take ultrasound images of the heart on 26 boys that day and got another 4 the next morning. I’m genuinely excited to analyse the data for what will hopefully be a great study. 

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