Get to da choppa

It wasn’t the trip I was hoping for but, in a weird way, it was the trip I had planned for.

No one plans to fail, to get sick, to take pretty drastic measures to get down from a mountain safely. But here I am, a few hours discharged from a hospital in Kathmandu after succumbing to acute mountain sickness.

Yesterday, I should have been walking into Everest base camp. Instead, I was choppered out from 5030m to Kathmandu via Lukla and then by ambulance to hospital. My pulse oxygen was under 60 when I flew out of Lobuche. By the time they popped that little clip on my finger, sirens blaring through morning traffic, it was sitting at 98.

That’s the thing about AMS – the symptoms can all but disappear once you get closer to sea level. At 1400m, Kathmandu is still a lot higher than what this beach girl is used to, but the enormity of suddenly being able to breathe normally was bliss.

The migraine headache, the nausea, the fatigue – well, that’s still lingering – gone. My appetite has returned after three days of eating a few mouthfuls. I consumed litres and litres of water with no effect. Overall, it was miserable, debilitating and energy killing.

And what of base camp?

I’m actually really OK with not getting there this time. I thought I would be devastated but I’m mostly relieved – to not have such horrible fucking pain in my head, to be able to breathe almost normally (I still have a cough, sore throat and stuffed nose), to be warm. It’s so bloody nice to not be cold.

On the positive side, I got to see the Himalayas from a pretty amazing vantage point. I was too spaced out to think to take pics but I remember thinking it was stunning. I was truly blown away by my care and treatment in hospital. I appreciate it’s a private facility catering predominantly to tourists (they asked me to sign their guest book during my discharge), but it exceeded all my expectations.

I am still extremely tired. I haven’t slept well for more than a week. I was woken far too early this morning for more bloods, more obs, more medication, but that shows attentiveness. I had a private room with ensuite and I read and slept and caught up on days of internet news while out of service.

I go back to hospital in two days for a follow up and to collect my medical records. It occurred to me at some point that it was the first time in my life I’ve ever been admitted to hospital.

It’s been a whirlwind 36 hours, some of which is still a fog but I cannot thank my hiking company enough for their care and organisation of every detail. They notified my travel insurer, sorted out the logistics of all my transportation including the two helicopters, my extra nights’ accommodation now needed in Kathmandu and even visited me in hospital.

I am beyond grateful for the experience. If it had to happen to someone in our little group of travellers (my travelling companion and I made two friends), I’m glad it was me. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I’ve had the Toyota moment. Now to wait for their return to Kathmandu on Friday and celebratory beers.

Note: If you’d like the details of my tour company or hospital, please inbox me.

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