A Whitby doctor whose life was saved by climbing the world’s highest mountains was honoured by the Queen on Monday.
Dr Alistair Sutcliffe (49), of Sleights, received a British Empire Medal on Monday for services to general practice and the community.
The recently-retired Spring Vale Medical Centre doctor received the award at a ceremony at Northallerton County Hall, where he was presented with the medal by James Dugdale, the 2nd Baron Crathorne.
Dr Sutcliffe said: “Yesterday was a bit of a crowning glory. It topped all my successes because it is a permanent reminder that I have been very fortunate and taken the opportunities that came my way.”
Accompanying Dr Sutcliffe were his wife Clare, parents Dr Norman and Jan Sutcliffe and mother-in-law Peggy Tracey.
Dr Norman Sutcliffe said: “I thought it was wonderful. I have had several proud moments with Alistair, such as when he qualified with honours, when he got married, and now this. He’s certainly thickened my blood over the years.”
Dr Sutcliffe graduated at the top of his class at Aberdeen Medical College and his mother, Jan, added: “He has always been extraordinary, so we don’t know what to expect next. You just learn to live with it.
“We have had so many proud moments. When he got to the top of Everest and he rang us in the middle of the night we were gobsmacked. Then when he told us about this we thought ‘Well that’s Ally’.
“When he got married to Claire we thought we were very proud of him. But we were also proud of her for taking him on.”
Dr Sutcliffe is the first person to have ever summited the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.
In doing so he has climbed 30 miles upwards, or just over half way to space.
But Jan said she never truly relaxes when her little boy is away. She added: “I don’t think your children ever really grow up. We know he’s an adult but in some ways he can be a child.”
Norman added: “He was full of mischief and he could get away with murder because he always smiled at you.
Alistair mountaineering exploits have been credited with saving his life, when in 2010 he suffered a brain haemorrhage.
The injury would have proved fatal, however his journeys to high altitude - where there is less oxygen - had opened up an extra blood vessel in his brain.
“I think you come down from Everest a different person from when you went up because you feel that anything is possible. That thought helped me when I was recovering from the brain haemorrhage.”
Although he has retired from the surgery, Dr Sutcliffe remains active in fund-raising for St Catherine’s Hospice.
He is also preparing to write a book on hostage situations. “I have been in enough of them and it’s quite a topical thing at the moment.
Has been in hostage situations three times in his life. Once as he prepared to ascend the Indonesian mountain of Carstensz Pyramid in 2007, when he was held captive for 19 hours. In Timbuktu he was robbed at knife point, while on his journey up Elbrus he was taken hostage by rebels.
Dr Sutcliffe said: “You never quite know how they are going to do these things, because if you say or do the wrong thing it can go wrong very quickly.”
One tip he offers is to carry a picture of his family back home as this adds a human element to the situation.