19 March, 2012
Phakding–Namche Bazaar (3500m/11480 ft.)
Today we went through some beautiful pine forests. We walked along the Dudh Koshi River and enjoyed trekking across the many suspension bridges crisscrossing the river, one of which was the famous Hillary Suspension Bridge. At the Hillary Bridge, we stopped for a snack and water break and admired the view of magnificent snowcapped peaks of Mt.Thamserku and Mt. Kusum Kangru.
Lunch was at the riverside, and the rest of the day’s trek was a very steep three-hour climb to the Sagarmatha National Park checkpoint, after which we had another hour’s steep climb to Namache Bazaar, a main trade center of the Khumbu region. Anil had a bit of a difficulty with this steep climb today. Delle quickly recognized that his trouble was more likely due to hypoglycemia caused by his diabetes medicines. She suggested trying to reduce his medicine dose the following day.
That evening, after our steep ascents, we were very tired, and happy to get back to the lodge, where we were greeted with hot ginger tea. We all enjoyed the hot showers (the more so in retrospect, because we weren’t able to shower again for many days), and gathered for dinner by the yak-dung-fueled fireplace. We were now above eleven thousand feet, and were supposed to continue our acclimatization at Namche for one more day, before we went any higher.
“Are you a doctor?” The lodge owner was inquiring of our teammate Delle, as she took a forkful of her apple pie.
“My friend fell off a cliff and is badly injured,” the man with him asked.
“Can you please help him?”
Delle, exhausted from her own trek, immediately got up and asked where the injured person was. I asked if she wanted me to go with her to help out, but, looking at my tired face, she graciously declined.
Mindu Sherpa accompanied her into the cold, dark night. Together, their path lit by flashlight, they hiked up to a small hospital, where an injured sherpa, his wounded leg bleeding heavily, had been laid on a table.
The man was losing a lot of blood, but, fortunately, Dr. Delle was able to splint his leg and help control the bleeding—because a rescue chopper would not be able to come till the following day.
It was late that night before Delle made it back to the lodge, and she left again early in the morning, to attend to the injured sherpa. Later that morning, although he was transported to the nearby helipad, bad weather prevented the rescue ’copter from picking him up for several more hours. Delle’s fortuitous presence and attention had saved his life.