Saturday, 25 August 2018

I’m down but not <completely> out! 

Crew photo after we made the decision to retire from the race! 
On Wednesday night I retired from the Sevenstar Round Great Britain and Ireland Race after 1740 miles of racing and 10 days 13 hours at sea. With only ~60 odd miles to go to complete the race it was a gutting experience, but a decision I had to do because the race had taken longer than anticipated, and I had to attend a work meeting as CEO of Aparito, a company I founded to develop remote patient monitoring using emerging technologies. 


These days people often talk about the importance of a work:life balance. To quit on a personal goal to meet a professional requirement felt nothing like a good work:life balance. Please believe me when I say that it was a way harder experience than having to fly home from your family holiday lying on a beach in Costa Del Wherever to attend a work crisis meeting, because I had invested so much time, money, emotion and effort into the race. Let alone the disappointment it caused to my crew mates Frosty and Pip.   

As hard as it feels right now I appreciate that I can’t complain too much, and I look back at the last decade with a personal reflection of pride, smiles and a slight disbelief that I’ve been so fortunate to create so many varied and different memories in work and life – personally and professionally. 

February 2018 marked ten years since the end of my row across the Atlantic, an epic adventure, the start of my love for the open seas, and the beginning of what has been an exceptional decade for me. 

Since then I’ve worked hard to balance my love for the ocean and my passion for work in child health. From volunteering briefly for Save The Children in Lesotho 24 years ago, to working clinically at Great Ormond St Children’s Hospital for 12 years, to working at the European Medicine Agency for six years, I have always had a deeply ingrained passion for child health that I never want to lose. But over the last 6-12 months or so I’ve really lost my mojo (yes, this is where you feel sorry for Frosty!). My battery has been running completely on empty, just not able to recharge, and I’ve failed to get much enjoyment or satisfaction from anything I do. Leaving me always questioning everything I’ve done / am doing / want to do. 

I have of course wondered if it’s a classic case of being “burnt out”– after all I have lived on a lot of adrenaline over the last 10 years. But my ocean adventures have become the solace that reinvigorated me many times over the years, and my addiction to adrenaline is what makes me feel alive.  

Founding Aparito has been exhausting and exasperating though. Made even harder because there is no clearly defined finishing line. While I still strongly believe that emerging technology can serve to have a huge positive impact to manage patient’s health, the process of starting a company and addressing all the legal, governance and financial basis means that I’ve been distracted from doing the things that really matter to me. I’ve been sucked into a world which I didn’t even know existed a mere four years ago. I’ve been bitten by commercial-sharks, massively disappointed by individuals I trusted and generally dismayed about how the tech sector in general works (especially the start-up scene). Even my efforts to establish a social impact company was faced with a barrage of disappointments.     

When I completed a large (by my standards) investment round nine months ago to grow the company I couldn’t glean any pleasure or pride from it at all. To the contrary. I had never felt so far from the world of child health where I had a well-defined sense of purpose and a clear vision of the impact I wanted to have in the world.

The global environment really doesn’t help my mood either. Brexit genuinely causes me a lot of anxiety, heartache and sorrow. It makes me feel both helpless and angry. On Wednesday August 23rd the same day that I retired from the race, one of my European friends also left London because of Brexit and the move of the European Medicine Agency to Amsterdam. It makes me so sad I can’t begin to tell you. When people tell me that Brexit is not personal I genuinely wonder what emotionally void planet they live in. Because not only am I worried about the unnecessary damage it will cause to the life science and health sector in the UK but also because of the genuine risk I think it can have on global peace. Trading together is really one easy way to stay friends!  

I recently wrote a list (below) of all that I’ve done and experienced over the last 10 years. Not so much for the bragging rights of “Look what I’ve done” but more as a way of reassuring myself that I can maintain a successful work:life balance and to convince myself that ordinary people like me can achieve extraordinary things with the right level of passion, drive, support and commitment. In a world that seems increasingly volatile and troubled I needed to see that individuals like me can make big things happen. I needed to have hope that things can be changed for the better. 

Competing in the Sevenstar Round Great Britain and Ireland race was my way to detox from the Brexit gloom, and to recharge from the daily grind of growing Aparito. 1805 miles in one of the most challenging sailing races felt like the right option even though I’m not on top racing form at the moment. I knew it was going to be tough, but I had underestimated the combined difficulty of being on a new boat (Class 40) compounded by the rough weather we experienced (winds up to 50 kts). I was so grateful that we had teamed up with sailing legend Pip Hare rather than go two up for this race. She was an immense co-skipper to my husband Frosty. Even going three up for this race and on this boat was a little bit left-field, but for the mood I was in I needed to be 100% sure that I was only going to sea with people that I fully trust and like/ love! Frosty and Pip ticked both of those boxes. Lucky really, as the combination of sea sickness and my inability to helm the boat in that weather meant I felt particularly vulnerable and particularly useless most of the time - merely a tea making stewardess while Frosty and Pip worked extremely hard to keep us moving along the course. They did such a great job that we were lying in 4thin class and 6thin line honours when we retired. I was also immensely proud that my husband decided to carry on completing the lap even though he knew that we would not be ranked in the race. He had to finish what he started regardless, and I completely get and respect that. 

People often say that life at sea must be dangerous, difficult and challenging. Yes, it can be, but in all honesty, there are elements of life at sea that I find easier than life at land, even in the storms and bad weather, even when the banging of the hull against the waves is deafening in your ears and vibrates through your bones, even when you’re so sleep deprived you’re too tired to work out which bearing you’re sailing to. But at sea all you have to think about is eating, sleeping and staying safe. It’s just the primal sense of staying alive! For racing / cruising sailors like me it’s pleasure and a life luxury to be able to self-select and put ourselves in those environments. We only need to think of the refugees drowning daily while seeking a better life to remember that. They are the real heroes, not us sailors.  

To feel the sea breeze on my face and to watch the sails power me through the water effortlessly (compared to a hard-fought tug on an oar!) is a reminder that I have the freedom to live a life of my choosing, which I can create as I wish. A fact which is too easy to forget some days, especially today when I feel I’ve sacrificed a personal life goal for a work life demand. 10 days sailing around the coast of Ireland and the UK was a great opportunity for me to reflect on what I want moving forward, for work and life, and even in between vomiting and sleep deprivation I was able to see clearly on what I need to do differently from here on. When I’m a bit more fully recovered I’m also hopeful that I’ll also find my mojo again. 

Accepting failures are an important part of growing. And while I’m not sure whether retiring from the race constitutes as failure (the definition is very personal and changeable) I know that I currently feel proud and gutted in equal measures. For now, I’ll put it down to failing mindfully. 


Year 
Sport / Adventure 
Work 
Other 
2007
London Marathon. 
Start row across the Atlantic 
Start new role as Scientific Advisor implementing Paediatric Regulation at European Medicine Agency (EMA).
Published 
Davies EH, Erikson A, Collin-Histed T, Mengel E, Tylki-Szymanska A, Vellodi A.
J Inherit Metab Dis. 2007 Nov;30(6):935-42

Davies EH, Surtees R, DeVile C, Schoon I, Vellodi A.
J Inherit Metab Dis. 2007 Oct;30(5):768-82

2008
Completed row across the Atlantic. 

Failed attempt at running 6 marathons in 6 days in the Sahara.  

Standard Distance Triathlon
Published 
Select item 1894035013.
Davies EH, Tuleu C.
J Pediatr. 2008 Nov;153(5):599-604.  
WHO Expert Committee.
World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser. 2008;(950):backcover, vii-174.
£190,000 raised for Great Ormond St Hospital funding research to value of Vitamin B6 to manage neonatal seizures.  
2009
Row across Indian Ocean. 
Olympic Distance Triathlon.
Loch Ness marathon. 
Initiated multi-product, multi company study design for Gaucher disease, now also adopted by FDA. 
Two Guinness World Records.
£30k raised for Breast Cancer Care UK. 
2010
Snowdonia marathon 
Graduated with a PhD from University College London.

Published 
Davies EH, Ollivier CM, Saint Raymond A.
Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2010 Nov;66(11):
Published my first Welsh book ‘Ar For Tymhestlog’
2011
Learning how to sail and competing in RORC season incl. Fastnet aboard La Reponse
Published 
Davies EH, Mengel E, Tylki-Szymanska A, Kleinotiene G, Reinke J, Vellodi A.
J Inherit Metab Dis. 2011 Oct;34(5):1053-9. doi: 10.1007/s10545-011-9347-z. Epub 2011 May 28.

Davies EH, Seunarine KK, Banks T, Clark CA, Vellodi A.
J Inherit Metab Dis. 2011 Apr;34(2):549-53
Published my English book ‘On Tempestuous Seas’. Launched at National Geographic, London.
  
2012
Sailed across the Pacific Ocean from Qingdao to San Francisco as part of Clipper yacht race 
Gave up my registration as a Children’s Nurse due to not being able to maintain sufficient clinical hours. 
S4C documentary ‘Hwylio’r Byd’.
Published my 2nd Welsh book ‘Bwyddyn y Fflam’.
Carried the Olympic Flame. 
2013
Fastnet fully crewed on La Reponse
Resigned from EMA to start on my own consultancy company, having evaluated 100+ paediatric investigation plans and waiver requests 

2014
Hiking unaided all the way across Costa Rica from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. 
Appointed Research Fellow at Bangor University and Associate Fellow at CASMI 

2015
2H Fastnet with Frosty followed by sailing across the Atlantic Ocean two handed, completing the RORC sailing season with a 2ndoverall.   
Founded Aparito with seed investment from Bethnal Green Ventures and became CEO shortly after. 

2016
Caribbean 600 2H sail with Frosty, finishing 1st in class.

3 Peaks Yacht Race – taking line honours. 


Aparito technology deployed in America, India and UK.
Published 
Kelly LE, Davies EH, Saint-Raymond A, Tomasi P, Offringa M.
Arch Dis Child. 2016 Oct;101(10):962-7
TV Documentary on S4C and Channel 4 (‘Ras y Copa’).

Married Frosty! 
2017
2H Fastnet with Frosty 
Opened an Aparito office HQ in Wrexham Technology Park, north Wales. 
Published 
Davies EH, Fulton E, Brook D, Hughes DA.
Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2017 Jul;83(7):1595-1601

2018 
*** Sailing Round Great Britain and Ireland *** 
Closed an investment round for Aparito, and the technology deployed in South Africa. 
Aparito now a team of 10. 
Ambassador for Team Wales in the Commonwealth Games.
Carrying Commonwealth torch. 
Ambassador for Wales Year of the Sea.

*** not completed!

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