1 You work mainly nights and weekends in the ED. How many of your patients are affected by drugs and alcohol?
Some shifts I'll count up to 80 per cent of cases involving alcohol or drugs. That's the horrible part of the New Zealand's binge drinking culture. There's only so many times in a shift you can be abused before it gets to you a bit. I can't stand it when young drunk guys are abusive to our female staff. Being one of the male doctors I'll often get called on when they're not feeling safe. I'm on good terms with all the security guards here.
2 What drugs are ED patients on these days?
Recently we've seen big bouts of methamphetamine use. The police bring in violent and abusive people when they're not sure if the behaviour's due to a head injury or they're just high. So you have to decide whether to sedate them until it wears off or try to do a head scan. Things have improved since synthetic cannabis was banned. Those days were horrible. You never knew exactly what was in that stuff or how people were going to react to it. Some would be completely off their rocker.
3 Why have you decided to be a spokesman for Men's Health Month?
It's amazing how many young men in their 20s come into our ED having suffered major heart attacks or preventable illnesses. A lot of men won't go to a GP. They wait until something gets bad. You see some shocking things - guys coming in with really swollen testicles. I'll go, "Bro, how long have you been like that for?" Turns out they've left it for three or six months because they were embarrassed and just hoped it would go away. If you've reached the age of 30 and you don't have a GP, you really need to get your shit sorted.
4 Why won't men go to the GP?
I think a lot of men are scared of having a health check because they think someone's going to stick their finger up their butt, when actually it's just having a chat. A lot of young guys think they're indestructible. They don't care what they put in their body. They're overweight, they don't exercise, they smoke. Some are basically living on energy drinks and they'll come into the ED with heart palpitations. You also get a lot of Kiwi dads trying to do the best for their families by working really long hours when they actually need to look after themselves a bit better. Their families would rather have them around for 20 more years than buying them the latest shoes.
5 How did you get into running ultra-marathons?
I injured my back in a kayaking accident and had to learn how to walk without pain again. I knew the best way to unload my back was to lose some weight - I'd ballooned to 90kg - so I joined a running group. It was sore initially but you haven't got much choice. You don't want to go down a surgical route for back pain if you can help it. Occasionally you'll get flare-ups but the fitter and stronger you are, the better you'll cope.
6 Why did you decide to run your first 100km race?
I told the old man I was thinking about running a 100km race and he suggested I do it for charity. The next thing I know he's told the church service and put it in the local newspaper - so I had to do it. When we got to 42.2km the guy next to me started laughing. It turned out a few of us had never run more than a marathon before. Once you realised you could do it, all of a sudden that target in your brain had been reset. I was thinking, "Now I can run 100km, what's next?" I always want to find that bit where your body's going to say no.
7 For your 40th birthday you did the 4 Deserts Race Series. In one year you ran four 250km races. Which was the toughest desert, the Sahara, Gobi, Atacama or Antarctica?
The Atacama in Chile. It was 40C but when you got on to the salt plains with the reflective heat you could literally feel yourself cooking. The slowest stage was through sand dunes that you'd sink into. Every step was so much effort. You've got a 10kg pack on your back with all your food and gear for the week. You run roughly a marathon a day and then a double on the fifth day. One day I pulled off my sock and found a toenail. I didn't even notice it come off.
8 When have you been embarrassed?
Running in Antarctica the wind chill got so bad you literally felt your nuts freezing. So I grabbed one of those instant heat packs and to stop it from burning my skin wrapped it in my glove lining and shoved it down the front of my pants. It worked but I made the mistake of telling one of the race organisers. They put it on the website so I got all these comments from overseas like, "Don't borrow gloves off this guy."
9 Did you always want to be a doctor?
No. I wanted to be a farmer. Dad's an Anglican Minister with the Maori Mission so we travelled a lot to all the rural churches and marae. I was sent to boarding school from age 9. All my mates at Wanganui Collegiate were from farming families. You'd go to their farms for the holidays and do cool stuff like riding motorbikes and hay baling. I was going to quit school after sixth form because I'd done bursary a year early but Dad talked me into going back for another year to play rugby. I decided to study physio at Otago because I thought the dude who ran on to the rugby field looked like he had a pretty cool job but then I became interested in orthopaedics so went to medical school. Somehow I've ended up in emergency medicine. There aren't many Maori working this field.
10 You're about to take a year out from your ED work to serve as a doctor in the NZ Army - why?
I'd been a Territorial soldier in my 20s and always wanted to go back. Dad was a padre in the Territorials and my English granddad was a tanker in the desert for Montgomery. Going to basic training was like being back at boarding school. You even set up your gear the same. I found it relaxing compared to shift work at the hospital. I said to the training Sergeant, "I feel like a pet poodle. You feed me, you take me out for walks." It was great. People ask me if I have any issues with carrying a gun but I don't. Doctors are non-combatants and the NZ Army's not doing any offensive work.
11 Is faith still a big part of your life?
Yes. I'm Anglican. I don't go to church as much but I still do live on the strong moral values I was raised by. That's something that's stuck with me.
12 Where are you happiest?
Running through the New Zealand bush, or surfing. I'll always check the surf report before I go for a run and if the surf's on I'll choose that first.
• Men's Health Month #MenStartTalking - Men's Health Trust New Zealand