Spring 2006 Report

team Machermo StationDuring the spring 2006 season we were literally able to witness “history being made”.

Until the very last day prior to my departure I had constant doubts whether I should go, if the situation in Nepal was stable enough etc… the tension was high in Kathmandu as we arrived. Our team decided to come in spite of unpredictability of the political situation and now I can say it was the best decision.

ambulance meets truckHigh up in the mountains we were not physically affected at all by the conflict in the valleys (the Sagamartha National Park was the most heavily guarded region outside Kathmandu in the whole country). However the news were reaching us via the BBC short wave radio and we were influenced by the generalized atmosphere of nervousness in the air. I will never forget how we were all listening (around 30 people) to the Nepali news when king (ex- king) Gyanendra gave his resignation speech; cheers were endless at 4700m. Nepal has miraculously escaped civil war, many problems remain unsolved but Nepalis are as optimistic as ever.

The season was definitely “slow” as many people decided to cancel their planed trips due to political turmoil. Surprisingly for all of us we still had some work to do- the numbers of trekkers were low, but among them plenty of “serious” patients. Within 5 weeks we’ve treated a total of 47 patients, half of them porters and half trekkers. Nine trekkers were seriously ill with either HACE/HAPE or both and needed urgent helicopter evacuation (all but one who was carried down by porters due to lack of insurance).

snow blind porterThe toughest challenge was a three-day snowstorm, which stranded us along with three  patients, two of them requiring PAC bag- I’ll definitely never forget these 72hrs of constant “bag-ing” and the pleasure of “digging out” our solar panels every 20min.

The most important lesson considering clinical work to take home for me- how to deal with emergencies & problems as the arise in a very remote and limited setting (sometimes your logistical and improvisation skills are more important than medical knowledge).

clearing snow off solar panels - photo P JonetzkoSame as previous volunteers we also held daily altitude talks, which we decided to extend and included more information on porters’ issues. To my surprise many trekkers knew very little, sometimes almost nothing about the altitude- related problems. To be honest most of our serious cases could have been prevented by education/ proper acclimatization schedules. So I guess it only proves again how important the role of IPPG is in the Gokyo region. Not only as treatment facility but also as educational/ awareness raising centre. Raising awareness should be much easier in beautiful sunroom in our new station (no talks outside in the wind anymore!).

mountain ambulanceAltitude is a major problem in Machermo, however I think IPPG should also get involved with other public health issues troubling the country, it is especially important because many NGO’s have a rather “centralized” impact, not too many reach population in remote areas. Since Nepal is one of the poorest developing countries in the world one can not ignore onlinepillen.ch the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We started two pilot projects in Machermo targeting porters- free condom distribution (big thanks to Porters Progress for donation) and HIV/AIDS education in Nepali (our Sherpa manager Chhewang has attended peer educator training, big thanks again to Porters Progress and UNAIDS/ UNDP headquarters in Kathmandu for their support). 

windmillUnfortunately due to blockade in Kathmandu our transfer to the new station was delayed until autumn season. We are quite proud to say that in spite of all logistical problems Chhewang has managed to get the solar panels & windmill installed (don’t ask me how he did it ;-).

I would like to thank IPPG for giving me the opportunity to work in Machermo. Big thanks to Barbie, Jeff & Chhewang who were great partners- I couldn’t do it without them and last but not least- big thanks to all our patients/ trekkers and porters we met for incredible inspiration and unforgettably cheerful smiles (worth more than a million!)

Dr Patrycja Jonetzko

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