Welcome to Nepal

Welcome to Nepal

Friday, 13 April 2007

Kathmandu [Day 2]


The first day of testing. I wake at 0620hrs. Tentatively I raise my head... is the headache still there...no, thank goodness. My room buddy Mike, is still asleep and snoring. I go to the bathroom, have a wash and shave. Sitting on the loo writing my diary, I think through how I might reduce the weight of my kit to meet the 15kg baggage allowance required for the flight to Lukla... and in particular for the yaks that are going to transport our gear.

Room 206 - ours for the short stay at Summit Hotel

I manage to arrive at the testing 'station' in time for my appointment. The results for today are: Resting O2 (oxygen saturation) 98, with a heart rate of 66 beats per minute and a breathing rate of just 12 breaths. My blood pressure readings are 129/79, 139/83 and 123/74. After exercise for two minutes, my O2 is 95, Heart Rate 131 and Breathing Rate 13.

Slightly concerned about getting enough water, I purchase a 1 litre bottle from the bar of the hotel as a reserve. Breakfast consists of orange juice, muesli and fruit, pancakes and syrup, bacon and omelette, plus a cup of tea. This is always my favourite meal of the day.

Chatting to one of the young doctors who are on our trek, after a quick question and answer session, she diagnoses my head pain as 'cluster headaches'. It seems one of the symptoms is a watery eye... which I do tend to suffer from. I then spend about an hour trying to email my wife (with a fellow trekker hovering over me... who wants to use my Hotmail account to send his partner an email). Stupidly, I make an error with my wife's email address which results in it being returned. Damn it... I have to go through it all again. Success in the end though.

I retire to a lovely cool spot under the trees, with the breeze blowing through my toes. I have a little time to kill before being called for my blood tests, spirometry and CPX tests (on the bike). Three phials of blood are to be extracted.

My spirometry test is now complete with yet another good result, achieving 147% of that expected for a man of my age and weight. The spirometry test involves breathing in deeply and then expiring the lungs completely through a calibrated unit... and then inhaling fully again. The second test requires one to take a deep breath in... and then exhale/inhale rapidly for 12 seconds, until told to stop. This can make one feel quite light-headed.

The CPX tests are over by 1520hrs - yet another good test with 253w and a great VO max. This involves riding an exercise bike for an extended period, whilst being wired up to all types of measuring equipment. The tension on the bike is raised (ramped up), making it harder to cycle at the 60 revolutions required. This puts the body under quite a bit of stress, raising the work rate of the lungs and heart, which are all monitored. My heart rate peaks at over 200 beats per minute (at max output) which seems overly high to me.

I talk to the researcher about the reasons for my trip. The tragic loss of our grandson almost a year ago is not something I talk about much, but telling the story again opens that locked trapdoor in my head. The memory of that fated day floods back and the emotions begin to well up. It will be the anniversary of his birth and his death while I'm away. To cheer myself up, I go for a run with Mike, my room buddy (approx. 1.5 miles out and then return).

During the run I feel rather uncomfortable, as people seem to be staring at us. Much too late I remember that short shorts are not culturally acceptable in Nepal. This is my first mistake and probably not my last.

We quickly return to the hotel and I decide to go for a swim in the nice cool pool, but this seems to make my headache return again. I take more paracetamol at 1700hrs and intend to have an early night as we have to be up at 0345hrs to do our medical diaries/tests. Breakfast is at 0445hrs and then we leave for the Lukla flight at 0515hrs.

Summit Hotel - gardens and pool

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