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.