Barry Clark joined the Canadian Forces in 1985 and became a medic. Traveling around the north, participating in NATO exercises, Barry was soon a member of the Special Service Force in CFB Petawawa where he spent the majority of his military career. When he got out of the military to pursue a career as a civilian paramedic, he was hired by the International Red Cross and journeyed to Rwanda during the crisis in 1994, working there for nearly a year. Since then Barry has worked in a high call volume service in Eastern Ontario, as well as run his own private paramedic business called Event Medics. As Stroud’s paramedic on both Survivorman and Beyond Survival, it was Barry’s responsibility to ensure Les was safe both physically and mentally during his many exciting and dangerous survival adventures.
1. What was your biggest concern for Les’ welfare during the shooting of Survivorman? Did you have the same concerns during Beyond Survival?
What I worried about the most were things I could not control: weather, in-country issues such as bandits and thieves, security, animals, poisonous reptiles. At first, I would worry Les would be stoic and try to tough through a potentially dangerous sickness such as dehydration or suffer an injury and not tell me during our daily radio checks. But Les is an intelligent guy and is used to using his own savvy to get himself out of trouble. Only once did I nearly step in when Les’ dehydration levels were too low but, then again, Les figured out a way to rehydrate and carried on.
Beyond Survival was a different animal than Survivorman. For Survivorman, I never had more than four people to worry about when it came to the crew’s personal health. For Beyond Survival we had bigger crews, a lot more bodies, so the potential for injury and sickness increased. We were lucky to have only a few instances of serious illness or injuries to cast and crew. Peru was particularly tricky for me when Les was trying different hallucinogenic Shamanic plant medicines. When I would ask the Shamans what was in the mixes, I would get “Oh, a bit o’ this, bit o’ that” (rough translation). For the record, these mixtures have no defined anti dote. Working with a hit or miss poisoning is not fun. I got very little sleep thinking about it, and equipped myself with a variety of different medicines to counteract the myriad of potential problems that could arise. There are too many ways a hallucinogenic drug can go sideways on you. In cases like these, it’s best to be flexible and prepared for anything.
2. How did you keep track of Les’ whereabouts during the shoots? How would you know if something happened and what type of evacuation plan did you have when say, he was trekking at 1700 feet above sea level in the Peruvian Andes?
In Season 3 of Survivorman we used a GPS pager, which gave me a general idea of where he should be, but truly the key was planning. Prior to each episode, we would go over the maps and try to plan for Les’ movement in the field. If I felt I needed to be closer to him, I would follow at a distance giving at least a 2-mile girth. He was great about checking in on a radio every day. The deal was if I had not heard from him by a certain time, I would go look for him…I never had to. Planning our evacuation in case of emergency was usually the first thing I did when we arrived at a new location. This involved assessing where the nearest hospital, clinic doctor, ambulance or witch doctor (yes, witch doctor) was and how well equipped they were. Quite often, I was better equipped than the hospital. In the Cook Islands, I was asked to help the locals should anything bad happen during the time we were filming. During Les’ Andean trek, if we had needed to evacuate we would have had to carry him to an altitude that would support helicopter evacuation, and then on to an army hospital and out to Lima from there. Satellite phones are a great thing…
3. For both Survivorman and Beyond Survival, what was your favourite location and why?
Favourite location…hmmm, easy: Papua New Guinea. Most shoots were so well organized and Les is so good at what he does, I did very little for a week at a time. In PNG, thanks to our local fixer Bill Thomas, we went in knowing that the locals had not seen a doctor for a month or, in some cases, years. Luckily I did independent duties as an army medic and was ready for what I faced: 50 to 100 people a day for lumps, bumps, colds, pneumonia, infections, a perforated eyeball, urinary tract infections, and more. We take medicine for granted here but in PNG, these types of ailments can kill. We were there for two full weeks, and every day I was in the little clinic area from 7am to sundown. I had a blast and helped a lot of people. One fellow had a small puncture in his jugular vein. I called my medical director (An Emergency Room Doctor on call to me 24/7) back in Canada and we figured out a way to drop his blood pressure with the medications and equipment I had on hand. Eventually we were able to fly him to the main hospital in Mt Hagen, and he lived. The majority of our locations offered me the opportunity to help the locals somehow, and it probably made us more tolerable in their environment. Sat phones rule!!
4. In many of the remote locations Les traveled to, the local communities would not have access to Doctors or medical supplies for months at a time, if at all. Any crazy stories about help you gave to local communities while on the shoots?
Well, my previous answer speaks a lot to the needs remote communities have for proper medical care. But Season 2 of Survivorman was really wild. While traveling the South African Plains, we had a vehicle full of tourists roll their van nearby. Four passengers were critically injured and seven were moderately injured. I worked for two hours before a doctor and ambulances could get to our remote location. Also during Survivorman Season 2 while in the Amazon, mid-week of Les’ 7 days alone, a small plane crashed into the village strip where we were positioned. Luckily it wasn’t that critical – broken arms and a closed head injury, but again I was responsible until emergency crews could get in to evacuate those injured. It’s tough because I only have so many supplies and my priority has to be for Les and his crew. I’ve learned to pack heavy. Again, praise for the sat phone…Woo Hoo!
5. Any advice for medics wanting to get into television or film?
The best advice is to have as much information about a project as possible. Have all your equipment in top working order and have lots of it. Be very flexible and do not assume you know everything about medicine. Find a great production company and be loyal. Stay out of the way, but be helpful on set. Research, research, research. Know when you cannot handle a situation and remember if things get hairy, you need to stay calm. It is what you are there for.
6. What’s your next project?
I am currently contracted to provide medics through my company Event Medics (www.eventmedics.ca). We offer services for a variety of clients including the National Arts Centre and Pro Bull Riding. I also work full time as a Road Medic in our Nations Capital. I love my job – 25 years and it only gets better. I look forward to meeting with Les soon and discussing future adventures.