I suppose with any sports, you’ll find people that keep their personal training/schedule/modifications close to the chest.
However, it seems in the mountains – climbers get even more vague & ambiguous with their plans or decisions for well being. I don’t know if it’s purely a function of ego out of concern for how people may view their accomplishments later, or what.
For example, this year there is a professional climber whom is now making an attempt on Everest but is trying to keep it incredibly quiet. So much so that when close friends of theirs have found out, said climber has gotten rather upset about the discovery. It seems that more has come of the situation than if they had just owned it but said they were just not advertising it publicly.
Past examples include climbers whom have attempted 8000 meter peaks without oxygen but then had to take nearly every drug on the planet during a rescue (while still refusing oxygen) simply so they can say they climbed without O2.
At work, I pride myself on being more transparent than I probably should be. However, it’s worked for me and I feel I’ve built levels of trust I may otherwise not have.
Yesterday, was a very low day for me. The night prior, I was awake most of the night feeling very nauseous and having a headache that wouldn’t go away. Shortly after waking up in the morning, my first sip of tea sent me lunging out of the tent, half clothed, into the rocks to vomit. I powered through and made it to breakfast where I still ate, even if less so than what I normally would have. It seemed that I was feeling better after getting some food in me but still just sat around camp all morning. At lunch, I was back to eating what was a normal amount for me (aka taking big servings and then getting seconds).
Not having slept well the night before, taking a nap seemed the best course of action and proceeded to sleep for about an hour and a half. I can only assume that the nap was my enemy as the moment I got up, what I had for lunch decided to re-visit, only inches from the opening to the tent.
The rest of the day continued to go downhill from there. I couldn’t get comfortable whether sitting, standing or laying down. Even just a sip of water would come roaring back up. At this point, given the loss of fluids and no ability to replace them, the headache became worse & worse.
Throughout the day I had been communicating with our awesome expedition doctor (Dr. Monica Piris) about my degrading situation. A short while before dinner time, as it became apparent that things were only worsening, she made the decision to give me a shot of dexamethasone (a steroid commonly used to treat HACE and severe AMS as well as cancer patients with brain swelling) as well as a shot of an anti-nausea medication (given I couldn’t keep water down). For those with any medical insight, you might be interested to know that my blood oxygen saturation (SpO2%) was at 58% by this point. For those wondering what that means, for reference, if under normal circumstances your SpO2 dropped below 90%, you would immediately be put on oxygen in a hospital under very close attention. At sea-level, your SpO2% should be about 100%. In addition to the dex & anti-nausea meds, she also put me on supplemental oxygen for the night and to also take diamox (another altitude sickness med) as soon as I could keep water down.
Until the dex, anti-nausea meds & oxygen kicked in to start making me feel better, it was difficult to stay positive on the whole. One of the many reassuring parts of having an expedition doctor like Monica, is that with her vast experience at high altitude, she’s seen it all (several times). She reiterated that this didn’t necessarily mean anything just yet. By no means did it mean the climb was over, in spite of taking some heavy meds & oxygen so early into the trip.
While although I would certainly prefer to not be on meds of any description, I will say that I had the best night’s rest on the oxygen than I’ve had in weeks. It was so restful and enjoyable. Relative to the day prior, I felt like a million bucks when I woke up. I had my full appetite back and my SpO2% was back more in a more acceptable range for where we’re at and for how long we’ve been here.
We even got a chance to walk across camp to see Tim Medvetz & Charlie Linville from our climb last year. It was great to see them again and have a big laugh and some tea.
Now, back at camp, after lunch – I’m a little slower moving than this morning but still better than yesterday. Monica has decided to keep me on dexamethasone & diamox for the day just to be sure I get past the hump in the hopes that tomorrow I can wean myself back off everything. It’s a fine balance of being on dex to get well and staying on for too long that it becomes difficult to come off it, as we go higher.
The only thing in my control at this point is remaining positive about getting past this and moving on! It’s a big expedition, with lots of time built in to adjust for things like this. I will say that I gained a new level of empathy for my amazing wife whom has been suffering endlessly throughout her pregancy. To be sick, for such an extended period takes serious determination & will power to keep moving on. She’s my hero and a reminder that I’m choosing to be here and suffering whilst she has no choice, yet doing it with grace.
Good days wouldn’t be appreciated nearly as much without the bad ones to remind us that all things are temporary. Such is the human experience and I love it!