Scots athlete struck with rare 'Polar Thigh' injury on trek to South Pole

A Scots endurance athlete has achieved her dream of reaching the South Pole - despite battling a rare and extreme injury.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 5:15 pm

Jenny Davis, 34, from Edinburgh, was struck with 'Polar Thigh' - an extremely painful, cold related abrasion injury - which has resulted in skin grafts and permanent scaring.

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Doctors in the UK said an area of skin had 'simply melted away' but that they hoped she would wear her scar 'with pride'.

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Jenny Davis on her expedition and the extent of her condition on her return home. Picture: Jenny Davis

Davis, also an Edinburgh University graduate, arrived at the South Pole following a dramatic 42-day, 715-mile expedition from the Antarctic coastline that saw her battle adverse weather conditions and ski between 14 to 16 hours per day.

The lawyer arrived at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on January 10, making her only the eighth woman in history to have achieved the feat.

On top of that, Davis skied the final 250 miles with the debilitating Polar Thigh injury, described as the worst case ever seen.

Her surgeon, Alex Woollard, said: “As a plastic surgeon, we know relatively little about how Polar Thigh evolves. The reports from the expedition doctors suggested that the injury was best left to heal, but when we took the dressings off the left thigh it showed an extensive area of full thickness necrosis.

"An area of skin equivalent to two per cent of her total body surface area had simply melted away and the fat underneath it was looking unhealthy, the injury was the equivalent degree of thermal injury from a burn and we had to operate a skin graft.

“She will have a permanent scar on the left thigh from the graft. We can make improvements to this in the long term, but it will always be there as a totem to her achievement. I hope she wears it with pride.”

Doctors on her trip recommended medical evacuation from the ice on two occasions following the diagnosis, confirming it was the worst case of Polar Thigh they had seen.

But Davis showed extraordinary levels of endurance to continue skiing over 17 miles a day to reach her target.

Since her return to the United Kingdom she has undergone two operations.

This is the second year in a row that Davis has attempted this mission, with her effort in 2018 being brought to an abrupt end due to the worst weather in Antarctic history, coupled with Davis being hit by an unknown illness, later diagnosed as the bowel infection peritonism.

She was medically evacuated on day 21 of the attempt for urgent treatment in Chile.

Davis said: “I feel hugely privileged to have been able to return to Antarctica for a second attempt to reach the South Pole and can’t thank my sponsors Atkins and The North Face enough.

"It wasn’t easy to recover from the disappointment of last year, so I was determined to push through the pain of my injury and make it to the finish line this time. With polar expeditions, the balance between success or failure is on a knife’s edge at all times, so that moment when the Pole came into sight and I knew that I would achieve what I set out to do was huge for me personally.

“I want to thank the Mr Woollard and his team at the Royal Free Hospital in London for their excellent care and the medical team in Antarctica for all their help and support throughout the expedition. There are some amazing people in the medical profession around the world, all of whom deserve our praise.”