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Sunday, 22 April 2007

Pheriche [Day 11]

Accepting defeat

I feel very, very odd this morning - quite spaced out. I don't pee at all during the night and my throat is dry and I am really, really thirsty. My headache has strangely disappeared, but I am very light-headed and unsteady on my feet, quite shaky and most strange.

Breakfast is uninspiring - I just manage to stomach porridge but can't face the chapattis. I feel generally unwell - and all I want to do is lie down and rest. Last night's episode of pain seems to have drained me of all energy.

I struggle to complete the normal tests with my team before breakfast, feeling very fragile throughout. The results are: Resting - O287; HR 67; BR 12.  BP 161/88; 159/87; 154/88.  After exercise - O276; HR 135; BR 22.

I notice my blood pressure readings are rising, in line with the higher altitude.

Pheriche - one of the routes to Everest

Looking out the front door of the lodge, it is a beautiful morning. Snow has fallen overnight and the valley is carpeted with a white blanket. It is very bright and I seem to be overly sensitive to the light, having to squint much more than usual.

The light is so harsh up here due to the altitude. I am so concerned that my headache is going to return, particularly as it is the first time I have been totally headache-free since landing in Kathmandu. Most bizarre.

After breakfast, I decide to update the doctor about my state of health. He advises that he will definitely not be signing me off to continue. In fact he has already arranged for me to descend back to Namche with another trek group. This means I will not achieve EBC and will also have to bid farewell to my Trek D buddies. I am absolutely gutted.

I am devastated it has come to this, as I really wanted to contribute to the research into intensive care following the tragic loss of our grandson. It has not been a cheap venture for this experience of a lifetime either.

I now feel such a failure for not achieving my personal ambition to reach EBC... I also feel I have let my sponsors and family down... and I may never get to see my Trek D companions again.

Trek D departs

Soon it comes time for Trek D to leave. I say 'goodbye' to every single person. The group photograph is taken and feeling sorry for myself, it is all I can do to hold back the tears as they depart. I watch them wander through Pheriche and out on to the moraine and up the Lobuche Khola valley... I should be with them.

I feel quite alone as I saunter back into the 'sun room' - though it is very peaceful now everybody has left. I just keep thinking of home and what everyone will think of me failing in my venture... and yet nobody will really know what I've been through... what pain I've suffered even just to get to this height.

Trek D - ready to depart for EBC
The super view from the White Yak

I am writing all this in my diary as a helicopter flies up the valley and lands. I wish for one moment it will casevac me down the mountain and home.

One of the remaining Xtreme-Everest team (David) pops his head in to see how I am. His responsibility within the team is for calibrating the CPX equipment for validation purposes. We have a short chat - he too is leaving tomorrow, so we will both be on the trail, but in opposite directions.

It is so nice that people care and it all helps keep things in perspective. I try to think of more positive thoughts.  I think about telephoning my wife to let her know I won't get to EBC, but decide against it, because it will only worry her... and cause her more concern. I decide to wait until I return to Namche before sending an email to my son, who can break the news and disappointment more gently than I ever can.

It is strange being here in Pheriche all alone. Most of the doctors have set off for Tengboche to use the Internet service (so much for me being kept under observation). Stupidly, I almost wish I'd taken a risk and continued onwards and upwards with Trek D, but it would not have been wise due to my feeling so weak. There is no medical support at Lobuche (4,910 metres) and Gorak Shep (5,140 metres).

Oh well, Trek E are due to arrive shortly so at least I'll have some companionship before leaving for Dingboche (4,410 metres) tomorrow (situated 30 minutes walk over the ridge from Pheriche)... but I'll also have the embarrassment of explaining why I've not progressed. I've been told that a porter from this trek group will be allocated to me to carry my 15kg holdall over to Dingboche, whilst I carry my 35 litre 'sack'.

Trek C are due to arrive in Dingboche tomorrow evening as they descend from EBC - and I am to accompany them for the trek down to Namche. I just hope the doctor's diagnosis is correct and it isn't AMS that I am suffering from, otherwise the extra 200 metre height gain to Dingboche might trigger my 'demon' headache again... and I've only just got rid of it.

My nose is still very blocked and bloody so I will continue using saline drops, but I am no longer in any need of the painkillers. It is an amazing relief and a positive sign for the rest of my time in Nepal... I hope.

I lay in the sun just chilling out, resting, reading my book and generally trying to de-stress. I go for a wander around Pheriche to take some last photos. I must start to feel more positive about my health if I am to improve and make the most of this 'Everest' trip.

I visit the Himalayan Rescue Post, and am advised the Pheriche Lab staff had been to discuss my symptoms. So that explains why the doctor seemed so positive I wasn't suffering from AMS. It's good to know we have professional medical staff like him looking after our health.

Returning to the White Yak, I find porters beginning to arrive from Trek E... and in small groups, the volunteers all start to arrive. I leave them to check-in as I remember how I'd felt so drained when I arrived the other day... which seems such a long time ago now.

Eating a bowl of soup for my evening meal, I make small talk with the Trek E Leader. Explaining my situation, he says he'll see if he can 'spare' a porter to accompany me to Dingboche (it is supposed to be their rest day). He then goes on to recite a story of a friend of his, who had experienced similar headaches to mine, only to find he had a banana-sized tumour on his brain. He reinforces it is really important to get this checked out. No doubt he has the best intentions in telling me this story, but I don't feel particularly comforted by his recital.

Politely excusing myself, I retire for yet another early night. I am exhausted, despite resting all day.

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