The Accident at Tashi Lapsa Pass – Part Eight: Journey to Hospital

In part seven, Louise – now reunited with her husband Bijay and daughter Shanaia – begins the journey from the helicopter to the hospital. If you think that doesn’t sound like a big deal, you’ve obviously never driven in a developing country…

 

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Just over a week ago when we were staying in Lukla, I’d had a strange premonition that we would be returning to Kathmandu, not in a plane but in a helicopter. Now, here we were, rising above Lukla and starting our journey down the Khumbu valley in the little black helicopter. Lakpa, who has had quite a lot of experience flying in helicopters, told me that you feel turbulence less in a helicopter. I was certainly glad to hear that.

It was 4:00pm when we took off from Lukla which meant we had one hour left of daylight. It was cloudy too, and we flew over one ridge after another, at times with fairly limited visibility. Normally this would stress me: despite having clocked up more than 250 flights on small planes in Nepal since 2005, I remain a nervous flyer. Today though, I had other things on my mind. I couldn’t talk much to Bijay who was preoccupied with our daughter who was crying because she didn’t like the loud noise of the helicopter. Eventually, she fell asleep. Sanghe held my hand with both of his which was a great comfort to me, although in retrospect, I am not sure whether this was for me or for him! Whereas Lakpa was rational, focused and on the whole, very emotionally controlled, Sanghe was the opposite and appeared to be fighting tears for much of the ride back to Kathmandu.

Before we left Lukla, the helicopter pilot told us that he could probably fly directly to hospital as it had its own rooftop helipad. By the time we reached Kathmandu though, it was just before 5pm which was the helicopter curfew so we had to land at the airport. There was an ambulance waiting there belonging to the Basundhara Hospital. It was there to take us to Basundhara or any other hospital we wanted to go to.  Once landed, the helicopter pilot wished me the best for my recovery.

It took almost 10 minutes for me to get from the back of the helicopter into the rear of the ambulance, even though the two were only about five metres apart. First came the transfer down from the helicopter to the wheelchair three feet below, then about the same height from the wheelchair up into the ambulance. My tolerance for pain and stress was running out. While there seemed to be quite a few people milling about all ready to help, I didn’t want someone grabbing my leg without knowing the nature and extent of the injury. Eventually, I was moved out of the helicopter and into the wheelchair with the help of at least five people, the ambulance driver holding my leg. After lengthy deliberations about how to then get me into the ambulance, Sanghe solved the problem by just picking me up himself and putting me on the seat. Then he, Bijay and Shanaia got in, the ambulance driver started the engine and we set off.

 

A typical Kathmandu ambulance. No lights, no sirens

A typical Kathmandu ambulance. No lights, no sirens

 

The ride across Kathmandu on inadequately sealed, pot-holed roads proved to be more challenging than the helicopter, or even the doko basket. Sanghe tried to help by holding my leg for me but I was regularly crying out in pain as we drove over speed humps, swerved to avoid hitting motorcycles and negotiated rough patches on the road. It was office peak time too, and the roads were choked with traffic. It was a long slow trip across town and by the time we arrived at the hospital I had just about had enough of everything.

 

Traffic in downtown Kathmandu. Now try getting through this in an ambulance.

Traffic in downtown Kathmandu. Now try getting through this in an ambulance.

 

About Louise Currie

Originally from Australia, although I have been living in Nepal since 2005. I worked for a long time for an international aid agency in Kathmandu. I am interested in community development and having adventures in remote places. I am married with one daughter.

Comments

  1. Hi Louise,

    I cannot believe that the ambulance has no light or siren in Nepal. Why does it happen? The ride with bad road conditions and avoiding rough motorbikes would be uncomfortable and add painful, I can imagine.

    I can’t remember how I coped with my broken spine for a night back in 1980. I broke the bone while running at a small park on Sunday afternoon and had to wait until the following day to see a doctor. I understand how you felt at the tough time…

    As well as the doko basket, you can suggest the community that ambulances need lights and sirens so that they will be given ways.

    Thanks :)

    Yoshi

  2. Louise Currie says

    Hi Yoshi

    Actually – most ambulances do in fact have a siren but they are not very loud. They also have to compete with politicians and ministers who also drive around in vehicles with very loud sirens – and flashing lights :)

    Broken spine?? I hope you are ok now.

    Louise

  3. HI Louise again,

    Thanks for worry of my spine. It is okay now as nearly 35 years have passed since the accident. But as I have mentioned in my writing of playing tennis, it is hard to serve a ball in tennis and to throw balls. I believe that it is due to the broken spine, but am not hundred per cent sure.

    https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/what-made-yoshi-play-tennis-and-the-story-of-his-playing-days/

    I can imagine that you need to lobby politicians, but speaking up is important, I think.

    Best Wishes

    Yoshi

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