Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Sad Last Chapter

 Altitude sickness and cerebral edema are funny things.  Random, unpredictable, and sneaky.  But the signs and symptoms are undeniable.  Vigilance and monitoring are key.  So is medical attention when things get bad.

Today, thanks to cerebral edema, I continue to have fairly significant health problems.  I have a "profound"  hearing loss in my right ear.  I took a heavy round of steroids to try to reverse it but so far no good.  One morning last week I woke up with double vision.  It still comes and goes, as does dizziness and imbalance.  Cerebral edema.  The gift that keeps on giving.

I was starving for oxygen during the trek.  How do I know?  Our guides checked our oxygen saturation (how much oxygen is in your blood) at least once a day with this little thingie called a pulse oximeter that they put on our finger.  For almost the entire length of my trek the oxygen saturation in my blood was in the 70% range. Anything under 90% is considered low.   Anything below 88% is dangerous.  

One evening not too long before I decided to turn around my oxygen saturation was in the 50% range.  Now this is Low.  With a capital L.  Your body begins to die because it's not receiving enough oxygen. Many people lose consciousness at this level.  I was awake but confused.  It was like I was in a fog.  I had a blinding headache, nausea, no appetite, and I couldn't sleep.  The symptoms  had been going on for days.  I didn't make it a secret, either.  I guess you could say I was a whiner, but in this case a legitimate whiner.  I'm pretty sure we had oxygen with us, but I never saw it.

I alone made the decision to turn around. I descended with my friend Rick and a Sherpa. Rick isn't a medical person, nor is he trained to recognize or treat altitude sickness.  What should have been a 2.5 hour trip took almost 6 hours.  What a terrible, terrible nightmare.

I'm thankful to be home but scared and uncertain about my future.   I know things could always be worse but I sure didn't see this coming.  I hope that with time at least some of this will resolve, but no one can predict a complete recovery. 

I'll keep blogging from time to time.  But not about anything as frightening, dangerous, and life threatening as my trip to Nepal.

Friday, November 1, 2013

She Returns, And Not In One Piece

I didn't make it to Base Camp. I tried my best and got to 16,000 feet, 1,500 feet short of Base Camp.

I developed HACE: High Altitude Cerebral Edema. My brain swelled.  Not something you want to experience. The easiest (wrong word) way to deal with it is to descend. So I did, to 14,000 feet and the Himalayan Rescue Association, a small hospital staffed with young volunteer doctors. After miserably failing a number of neurological tests and receiving a mega-shot of steroids, I was heli-vac'd off the mountain to Katmandu.

I'm home now. I'm not disappointed that I didn't make it to Base Camp. I trekked through the Himalayas to 16,000 feet. Me, a 58 year-old woman with bad feet, bad hips, and Parkinson's Disease. Damn proud of myself.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Change in plans

Arrived in Katmandu on Friday. Our schedule had us leaving for Everest on Monday. Well, there's this giant hurricane hitting India right now and Nepal will get hit starting Monday. We couldn't leave until Thursday or Friday.

So....we're leaving in the morning by helicopter! Talk about an adventure. We'll be hiking in massive rain until later in the week, but the entire hike is still ON. I'll post again when I can.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On Strength

I leave this Sunday to begin my trek to Everest Base Camp. 
I've pretty much said over the last 14 months everything there is to say.  You know where I started from, you know the bumps that I've encountered along the way.  One thing I want to tell you is that I'm one helluva fighter.  Sometimes that word gets thrown around too loosely, I know. Over the last 12-15 years I've been in some pretty rough spots, but never did I feel deep in my heart that I was going to die.  I fought to live, not to avoid death.

I would never, never have referred to myself as a fighter before all of this happened.  In fact, I used to be one of the most insecure people you'd ever want to know.  I hid it well -- after all, litigation is 50% acting anyway.  I never felt comfortable about my own decisions, professional or personal, and I constantly vetted them to anyone who would listen.  I was never brave enough to step outside the box -- I never wanted to fail.  I deferred my decisions to others who I thought were better able to make them.  And most importantly, I never stood up for myself.

But it's all different now.  Life teaches us lessons, and through those lessons sometimes you get a gift.  My gift was strength.   I fought over and over again and each time I won.  Discovering I had strength was probably one of the coolest things I've ever felt in my life. 

And now?  Don't mess with me (and that's the clean version).   I'll stand up to anyone who challenges my intellect, my abilities, or my decisions.  I roll with my limitations but I don't let them hold me back.  Don't think that because I'm forgetful I'm not smart.  Don't think that because I occasionally stumble, I'll end up falling.  And don't think that because I'm slower than I used to be, I'm stupid.  I'm far from it -- never underestimate me.

So, intrepid readers, off I go to Nepal with my new-found strength and confidence.     Sunday morning I'm off to LA, then to Katmandu via Bangkok.  I simply can't believe it's here.

I won't be posting on my blog while I'm away -- too expensive.  But our guide group, Alpine Ascents, will post an update on my Facebook page every day and I may chime in here and there.   So please, keep an eye out.  Friend me on Facebook and I'll friend you back. I return to the States on November 3.

Thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement.  

उन्तिल लाटर 

Until later.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Our fundraiser was fabulous.  We raised over $10,000 for Parkinson's research and summit4stemcell!  Everything was just perfect, from the food to the music, flowers, and our wonderful guests.  Pictures are below.

Now, in 13 days, I leave for Everest.  My goal during this time is to continue my training, lay low, and get my mind ready.  Physically I'm there; now it's time to enforce my confidence and to confirm, beyond a shadow of a doubt,  that I CAN DO THIS. 

Ta Ta For Now!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Let The Festivities Begin -- With a Caveat

My fundraiser for Parkinson's is tonight.  We're expecting about 50 people; not quite the number we were hoping for, but it's gala season in D.C.  I'm nevertheless incredibly grateful to those who are attending this event.

Last weekend the bar was raised on the critical importance of raising money for this Parkinson's research.  You see, my beloved uncle -- my father's brother -- died last weekend from complications of Parkinson's.    He wasn't able to benefit from the research but once we get this research to the FDA and begin clinical trials I am confident that I will be a recipient of this amazing long-term treatment for Parkinson's.

You may ask, can Parkinson's be inherited?  Yes.  Though very little is known about the genetics of Parkinson's, mutations in a gene known as LRRK2 have been found to greatly increase a person's likelihood of developing the condition.  I don't know if I have the mutation and I don't know yet whether I will be tested.  If, however, there is a possibility we can pass this disease to our children, once again the research becomes critical.

Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Quite the weekend

Words can't describe the four days I just spent with the Everest team, hiking in the Eastern Sierras.  Friday was tough but it was just a warm up for Saturday.  Eight hours of difficult terrain and high elevation, but we made it to Kearsarge Pass -- 11,600 feet.

Now I really know I can do Everest.  The niggling doubts are gone.  I'm strong, mentally and physically.  The going will be hard and slow but I have no doubt I'll get to Base Camp.

27 days and it's off to Bangkok for a few days, then to Katmandu!

Check out this video of the recent hike.  Pretty cool.

I'll have a few more posts before I leave on October 6th, and I hope to post along the trail in Nepal.  Stay tuned!