Recently, a fellow tour operator has been the subject of some pretty unnecessary criticism relating to a medical situation that occurred on one of their tours. In our opinion, the operator handled the problem with distinction, but the angst and even criticism seems to come easily from those directly affected, and this instance raises a question about how much information any organiser of a motorcycle tour should be given before departure.
We are all perhaps a little reticent to share our medical history with strangers, and even sometimes embarrassed that the condition may inconvenience others on a tour, but the fact is that by withholding information on a medical condition on an organised tour, you place yourself and other members of the tour at risk. So where do you stand...?
When booking a tour, you will be given a form on which you are asked to make known any medical condition that could impact or affect your ability to participate. Whether that condition is a simple fungal infection or something far more serious becomes irrelevant when participating in the tour could either worsen or complicate the situation. In most cases you are probably on medication for the condition and as long as you have the necessary medication or treatment that you need to live 'normally' on tour, there is no problem. But in some cases pride or sheer stubbornness drives you to keep this important information to yourself and to push yourself beyond your limits medically, and then things can quickly go from bad to ..... well, simply disastrous. Imagine of you didn't disclose your medical condition to your insurer - you or your family would receive a very rude surprise when trying to claim!
On one of our tours, we became aware of a 'distressed' diabetic on the ride - and while this is not usually a problem, it became apparent that the insulin that the client had brought along was not handling the hot conditions as well as expected, requiring a diversion to get a new prescription - and ice packs for the client. Because the tour leader was aware of the situation, he was able to monitor the client; plan frequent stops and adapt the itinerary to accommodate a stop at a pharmacy. Simple solution to what could have become a problem. Tour operators across the world can regale you with similar and even worse examples of customers that fail to communicate their medical needs.
Remember that on a motorcycle tour, you are sometimes some distance from medical support and that because you are riding a potentially lethal vehicle, the slightest emergency can become life threatening to you and even others on the ride that innocently believe all is well. We have also had a case of a potential client wanting to join a tour only two weeks after major surgery - totally underestimating the physical and mental stress that would be caused by riding. While we identified this one early - not from the client but rather from a friend of the client that was also riding, and were able to approach the rider directly and dissuade them from riding. What if there had been an emergency? Apart from the personal stress and trauma on the rider, consider the effect this type of omission will have on others in the group and even the road leader himself.
With our company, each of the team has been certified as first-aiders and we travel with a medical pack and the necessary emergency backup team on-call, but none of this helps unless riders disclose anything that they are aware of that could pose an emergency for themselves or others on the ride. There is a time to be stoic and not show weakness, but joining a motorcycle tour is not one of them. As a member of any organised tour, you have a direct responsibility to ensure your own safety - and that includes bringing any medical condition that could affect the safety of the group to the leader of the ride before departure. We would rather credit your ride and suffer the loss that comes from it than expose you or anyone else involved to a medical crisis that could have been avoided. Do I need to know whether you have an ingrown toenail - or the exact gory details of that condition? Absolutely not, but if you suffer from anything that could endanger your life or the lives of others around you, yes Sir! The leader needs to know the potential for emergencies, and take the necessary precautions to accommodate or avoid them.
So the next time you join an organised motorcycle tour, take that question about your medical condition a little more seriously than usual. It could mean the difference between your life and death!