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Archive for July 9th, 2009

Berg Adventures supports high-altitude medicine on Everest

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

By Jim Barr

2004 EBC clinic

Everest Base Camp sends off fairly unwelcoming signals, like being jarred from sleep by the roar of thunderous avalanches or in causing you to wrestle for air from the altitude. But for Dr. Luanne Freer, founder of the world’s highest medical facility, these are some of the easy challenges to this unique setting.

Dr. Luanne in action

Since 2002, every spring climbing season (April through May) the Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic comes to life, providing emergency treatment for climbers on a strike for the summit. With over 1200 people at Everest Base Camp this past climbing season the clinic was busy. As she explains, for her and her Everest ER staff, even the mundane is unique when running a medical facility at 17,600 feet. “Simple IV infusions become logistical quagmires and require ingenuity, innovation and improvisation to make them work. We tried several IV warming devices – nearly all had some sort of problem at our clinic – either getting them charged or keeping them working was troublesome. In the end, for one patient we ended up having his climbing partner keep the IV bag in his armpit. It gave him something to do – we ran the IV tubing inside his down jacket to the patient’s down jacket sleeve and back up his arm. This kept the IV flowing, the fluid warmed to body temp, and kept his friend engaged and feeling useful. And it gave us 24 hour monitoring bedside. A win-win.”

Dr. Freer’s experiences have opened her eyes to what we take for granted here in the western world.

“Things like simple immunizations; I saw my first case of tetanus in Kathmandu. The patient went to her local blacksmith complaining of a locked jaw. Seriously! I’ve never seen it in my western practice. In Nepal I am appreciative of practicing medicine the way I had always fantasized that it would be – kind of a Marcus Welby approach – doing what I think is best for the patient independent of legal, economic, business concerns – and there are no insurance forms to fill out!”

Dr. Luanne at EBC

In 1999 and through a coincidence, Freer found herself in the Khumbu Valley – home to the world’s tallest peaks – and within three years she was back, this time with a mission that would forever change the Everest landscape. “We have now served over 1,600 people within our clinic,” explains the emergency physician and director of the clinic managed through the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA).

This fall will find Dr. Freer and Dr. Eric Johnson, another veteran of Everest medicine, returning to Everest Base Camp as faculty members on a Berg Adventures operated continuing education trekking experience. The dates are October 1 – 21, 2009.

Edmonton based Track & Trail Adventures; one of North America’s top academic retreat producers, is pleased to be working with Dr. Freer and Berg Adventures International on the upcoming “travelling conference”. You are invited to join them en route to Everest Base Camp, Nepal for an unprecedented adventure.

For additional details on this trek October 1-21, 2009 visit the expedition section of Track & Trail’s website: www.tandtadventures.com/adventure.php?adv=4

For more on BAI’s Deluxe Khumbu & Everest Base Camp visit: http://www.bergadventures.com/v3_trips/asia/everest-basecamp-description.php

Photos provided by: Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic: www.everester.org