Cracknell, James and Fogle, Ben
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Crossing – James Cracknell and Ben Fogle
We were both suffering by this point in the race. James's boils looked infected and I had a fungal infection that had left the lower half of my body covered in mould. We decided it was time to crack into the medical supplies and so I prescribed us both a course of antibiotics.
I'm not sure that having a doctor for a future sister-in-law counts as full medical training but we were miles from anywhere with no means of establishing correct dosage. The painkillers had guidance written on the side of each packet in big letters. Each box was marked strong,
very strong, or very very strong. In the absence of any medical or first aid books, which had all been lost in the capsize, we guessed quantities, with James administering himself two Tramidol painkillers an hour. [sic!] We would later learn that the correct course is one every four hours, and that no more than four should be taken in a twenty four-hour period...
My next shift was almost bearable; two capsules later and it was better still, but I was incredibly tired. I hadn't slept well the night before because of the pain, and thought it was just the lack of sleep catching up on me. I came off my shift at 4 a.m. desperate for a pee, despite wanting nothing more than to dive into the cabin. I knew if I didn't go now I’d only have to wake up to go in a bit. I sat in the bow rowing position, put the bucket between my legs and prepared for action. The next thing I heard was Ben saying,'You OK back there?'
'Huh?'I grunted and looked at my watch: 5 a.m. I'd fallen asleep for an hour with my dick in the bucket and hadn't even managed to go to the toilet! It was an unbelievably uncomfortable position to fall asleep in, and if I hadn't done it I would have thought it impossible. The painkillers had worked magnificently but the side-effects were clear. If I could fall asleep while having a pee it could also happen while I was rowing and that could be fatal. I didn't want to feel like I was rowing with a red-hot poker shoved up my ass again, though, so I decided that every time I took the ultra-strong painkillers, I'd also take some Pro Plus caffeine tablets to help me stay awake. I'm not sure a doctor would have recommended such a cocktail, but with a lack of floating Gps in the Atlantic, I had no option; all I wanted was to be able to row and to get this boat to Antigua as soon as possible.
I appeared for my session and realized immediately that James was not quite himself. The enormous quantities of painkillers were seriously damaging his mental health. He was popping so much morphine he was crazed. This became glaringly obvious when he stumbled out halfway through my shift. I regularly interrupted James’s shifts by getting up early, convinced that it was my turn to row when I actually had another hour to rest. So when James first appeared I assumed that he had woken up thinking the same thing. Admittedly this should have alerted me to a problem instantly - James never appeared early for his shifts - but it wasn't until he spoke that I realized just how badly the drugs were affecting him:
‘Am I at Freddie Flintoff’s testimonial?' he queried.
It was time to chop back his dosage.