Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Altitude emergency

No walking this afternoon as having lunch at Kangjung which is also where we are sleeping. Stopped at Everest View Hotel en route and also visited simple Sherpa Museum just after we set out from Namche.

Turned colder early this afternoon as the sun disappeared about one o’clock. The youngest member of our team, David, aged 19, rather worryingly asleep in a room at the tea house. He came on lower level easier walk as he was suffering since yesterday evening quite severe symptoms, in my opinion, of advanced mountain (altitude) sickness.

Our trek leader said we’ll see how he is tomorrow, although I heard her at lunchtime tell the Sirdar she was worried. Altitude sickness should be taken very seriously, according to the books I had read.

So far everyone else seems okay. The pace was slower today and easier to cope with. Apparently there are a number of contingency options and alternative routes to cope with a variety of circumstances.

My own cold and cough, which struck me on the second night, is much the same, not really bothering me until I lie down, mainly a running nose and hacking cough.

It’s 15:30 now. There is thick monstrous cloud all around. The light is bright but flat. The tent cold. I will transfer to our room in the tea house soon to keep a little warmer. I expect we should make the most of this luxury as it will only get colder as the trek progresses.

Ninety minutes later after a flurry of activity inside two of our porters burst through the door with a very ill-looking David propped between them. It was dark and they were all dressed for the extreme cold. I sensed a real emergency was unfolding before our eyes.

David was carried back across the mountain by the two brave porters and led by our Sirdar. It was a walk of mercy through the bitterly cold night, taking some four hours to reach the Kunde hospital where we had taken a short break that morning shortly after leaving Namche.

Our trek leader was visibly upset by now and told us she wanted a ‘second opinion’ on David’s rapidly deteriorating condition which had rapidly turned into acute altitude sickness.

It was 21.20 and I had just turned in. We had spent the evening chatting in the warmth, drinking hot tea and playing card games for 10 Rupees a go in the tea house. It was reported back that David had been put on oxygen and was staying in the remote mountain hospital overnight. That was a life-saver.

Cloudy mist hangs over the campsite tonight. Somehow it doesn’t feel so cool and it’s nice to have been inside the warm of the tea room for much of the late afternoon and evening. Heated by a stove powered by Yak dung and lighted by Tilley lamps.

We heard the next day that David had been evacuated by helicopter to hospital in Kathmandu. At the lower altitude he would thankfully make a full recovery - it had been a close shave and this trek was definitely over for him.