Dr Rachel in Medical Tent
Base Camp Doctor's Perspective
16 May 2005
Base camp doctor- glamourous holiday or chilly ordeal?
The climbers came back down to base camp yesterday, which was a great relief. It's always good to have them safely 'home' and I find myself analysing the way they look, checking for positive attitudes and watching closely to see if they are eating well. Most of them have lost weight. Both my physician training and my maternal instinct kick in.
With the help of Ang Tsering, I moved my tent a few days ago to escape a rising lake. I am now camped in the midst of the climbers. So this morning I woke up to the throng of coughing fits. The dry 'Khumbu cough' is now a constant problem for most of the guys and is resistant to nearly all medical treatment. It's frustrating to be a doctor with no cure. Having been very busy during the trek in and for the first few weeks here (colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, gastroenteritis, acute mountain sickness, minor injuries and blisters) - my job has been reduced to treating the untreatable cough. The supply of over 800 throat lozengers is about to run out.
I joined the HRA doctors last week treating the victims of the avalanche at camp 1. It was an amazing experience being involved in the rescue effort via radio and receiving 6 tired and injured climbers. It's a miracle no one died.
Now here at the AC base camp the days are quiet. When the guys are climbing, Phil and I are in frequent radio contact and we can never truly relax until we know they have reached camp or best of all until they are back here at base camp. When not worrying, I get to enjoy the days reading and going out for hikes along the rocky terrain (and STILL getting horribly out of breath up the hills). I've found a nice community of friends to hang out with here. They are supporters of climbers and doctors from other teams. It's amazing how the days pass.
Our female climber Kat has injured her knee and has been down here for a few days. Sad for her but great for me. Together we have enjoyed evenings of frivolous 'girly' chat, which is a nice break from the testosterone fuelled conversation that tends to dominate base camp.
It's a funny life here at base camp. Both a wonderful and strange existence. I look up at the incredible ice fall every day, partly wishing I could go up there and partly glad to be safe at base camp. I remain amazed and horrified at the strength and determination of the climbers who continue to venture higher into this environment of extreme cold and high altitude that presents such a huge psychological and physiological challenge.
As for me, I'm enjoying the glamour and the ordeal and I'm happy for the chance to be here and support the AC team.