Spring and Autumn 2004 Report

Two major events occurred in 2004. First, Namgyal Sherpa started the building process by bringing in a team of 10 stone breakers paid for by CAN (Community Action Nepal). Second, IPPG has engaged Chhewang Sherpa as full-time salaried manager for Machermo with an extensive job description. The salary has been guaranteed for the next three years by doctors who were on my trek last October.

In October I was able to visit Machermo briefly. I talked to Namgyal, observed the huge quarry of building stone and met Dr Louise Cook, the resident volunteer doc, and Chhewang. On the way down I met Tenzing Tashi Sherpa, chairman of the Kumbila Buffer Zone Committee (KBZC) for discussions including oversight of the construction costs and ownership/management of the project as a whole.

The management of the project

A) The land will continue to belong to the National Park

B) The buildings will belong to the KBZC

C) The KBZC will arrange a roster of local lodge owners to manage the porter shelter

D) IPPG will organize and run the rescue post

E) KBZC and IPPG will consult each other on policy

F) CAN is responsible for building the structure and coordination with Namgyal and the KBZC via Ian Wall (CAN board member and IPPG-UK rep)

G) IPPG is responsible for fitting the buildings out

Ian Wall has been up to Machermo to check out building progress along with Chhewang and Govinda (CAN’s building supervisor). Building proper should start in March 2005 and it may be ready in October!

The post still runs from a room in Namgyal’s lodge and we are grateful to him for his support. It is equipped with a Portable Altitude Chamber (donated by the manufacturer CE Bartlett), an oxygen generator (IMEC), oxygen cylinders (seasonal rental, donor sought), a pulse oximeter (Bernhard Fassl), a stretcher (Skipton CRO UK), solar powered batteries (Jim’s Kili sponsors), a satellite phone (Island School, Hong Kong) and heaps of medication including Penthrox inhalers (Medical Developments International, Australia).

In 2004 the rescue post was staffed for four weeks in the pre-monsoon season and six weeks post-monsoon, with a steady flow of consultations punctuated by some serious problems needing prompt action and evacuation. It is always hard to say if lives were saved or not, but reading through the doctors’ log it makes me think that there must have been some close calls even with the doctor present.

Problems dealt with

The most common problems treated were altitude illness, respiratory, gastro-intestinal, and trauma. Occasionally more serious or unusual problems were seen as described below.

Pre-monsoon March 29th to April 28th

Drs Alex McRae (Australia), John Banks (Australia), and Trish Batchelor (Australia)

  • 71 patients seen (47 porters, 14 local Sherpas or guides, 10 trekkers)

Of these:

  • 8 porters had AMS
  • 4 trekkers had AMS, 1 HAPE, and 1 HAPE and HACE

Post-monsoon October 1st to November 14th

Drs Louise Cook (UK), Andrew Kingsley (UK). Medical student Tom Martin (Australia)

  • 126 patients seen (46 porters, 44 local Sherpas or guides, 36 trekkers)

Of these:

  • 16 porters were treated for Altitude Illness (13 had AMS, 2 HAPE, 1 HAPE & HACE)
  • One porter was carried down with severe HACE after being paid off and abandoned by a trekking group
  • 6 trekkers were treated for HACE and/or HAPE, 1 severe gastro-enteritis, 1 convulsions cause unknown. Of these 8 seriously ill trekkers, 5 were evacuated by helicopter, 3 were walked or carried down

Cheewang Sherpa: manager, assistant and translator

Chhewang Sherpa has been praised by all who have worked with him. He is taking English language classes, first aid courses and is keen to improve his wilderness medical skills. Chhewang has been visiting all the porters in Machermo each evening to talk to them.

Next season there will be regular education lectures for porters and trekkers and we hope to have the Porter Shelter completed by October 2005.

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