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Saturday, 21 April 2007

Pheriche [Day 10]

This really is hell

I have a really unsettled night and didn't get much sleep. Occasionally, I experience difficulty breathing, having to force myself to take deep breaths to avoid a panic attack. We were warned of the effects of altitude on our respiratory system, but it is still very disconcerting to experience it first-hand.

It is quite funny seeing this effect in others though. Sharing a room with Mike - during the night one minute he is breathing fine, then all goes quiet for ages, before he takes in another massive gulp of air and breathes again.

I only have a mild headache this morning which is good, but experience shows this will get worse into the day. I was also quite dizzy first thing this morning which rather worries me, but this now seems to have settled down. I think I'll get my main testing out of the way, then try and book a shower.

Early morning testing goes ahead as normal and my results are: Resting - O2 84; HR 69; BR 10.  BP152/83; 146/82; 137/84.  After exercise - O2 78; HR 140; BR 18.

Oxygen saturation and beats per minute tests
Monitoring Mike's performance stats

Breakfast follows with porridge... and pancakes. Trying to eat and drink sufficiently to offset the wasting element of altitude is an ongoing battle... and that is when you are feeling OK. At altitude, food seems so much harder to eat and digest.

I manage to use the loo this morning, so that's another 'must-do' off the list and I must wash my disgusting hankies today as well.

I decide not to take any more medication today unless I really have to. Nothing seems to alleviate the pain anyway and the amount of tablets and sprays I have been taking recently cannot be conducive to good health. However, if the headache takes off again, I shall have no other alternative but to take Tramadol, as I cannot cope with the intense pressure and throbbing pain.

Other tests today - a blood test is scheduled for 0830hrs, the CPX ramp test for 1130hrs and spirometry at 1400hrs. I will be interested to see how I perform at this altitude and what shows up on the CPX equipment. However, I am also getting paranoia about whether this will trigger another of my 'demon' headaches.

CPX testing at altitude of 4,278 metres - not easy

The spirometry test goes well - 155% that expected for a man of my age and height. My CPX test peaks at 220w on a 20w ramp, which I'm pleased with considering my sea-level trial only achieved 253w on a 35w ramp. The Lab staff mentions that they expect a third less at this altitude - this seems to be confirmed with everybody else as well. During the test, for the first time I feel claustrophobic in the mask at full tilt, as if I couldn't get enough oxygen... but I complete it OK without ripping it off.

Max and Ralf (Cortex Biophysik GmbH) are taking numerous photos of me, presumably as it somehow might help record the effects of headaches and pain in someone at altitude. Everybody is very sympathetic of my 'illness', despite many also feeling below par. I am however getting very angry about my 'ailment' now, brooding about a possible failure of getting to EBC.

I manage to get a shower, then feeling very clean and human again, I ring my darling wife. She tells me she has been without internet access at home, requesting I send emails to my son's address. I reassure her about my health, despite feeling very unsure about it myself. The phone call has to be kept short as it costs 300NR per minute - however, it was lovely to speak with her before being out of touch again.

Bloody hell

Oh my God.... my headache has just returned with a vengeance. I experience something like a massive electrical discharge going through my skull, from just below my eyes to the back of the head with a sharp crack. Intense, excruciating pain... throbbing incessantly... forcing me to vomit violently.

What can have happened - I feel so ill?

The Pheriche Lab doctor is summonsed and after another thorough examination, he prescribes 50mg Tramadol, 30mg Codeine and 400mg Ibuprofen to try and settle me down for the night... and it is only about 1700hrs.

During the examination, the doctor breaks the news that he can't permit me to go for EBC. He wants to monitor me for a further 24 hours. I am absolutely gutted, but can't object... I can barely raise my head off the bed without feeling sick, never mind consider trekking.

I keep rubbing my head trying to alleviate the pain, so much so it is making my skin sore - if only this would go. I feel nauseous and my head is pounding. This really isn't a hospitable place to fall seriously ill, so far from civilisation and proper facilities. In an emergency situation I have just two choices - evacuation by helicopter or somehow trekking out.

I doze fitfully until about 2000hrs but still had a severe headache - so more medication is taken during the night which finally enables me to get to sleep.

This really feels like hell.

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