The mountains have called
In a remote mountain village on the Himalaya border near Tibet, young Pasang was playing with his mates, kicking a soccer ball.
Pasang and his friends have a few more obstacles than most. Rocks from an avalanche have been strewn across their meagre playing pitch since a massive earthquake rocked Nepal to its core in 2015.
Pasang’s picturesque village of Lantang was completely destroyed, engulfed by a landslide of mind-blowing epic proportions. Homes, buildings and ancient temples were all destroyed and hundreds of lives lost. It was a terrifying day.
With hope in their hearts, the villagers are rebuilding their beautiful community. Broad shoulders and strong backs cut stone by hand. Skilled axemen fell timber. Foundations for the future have been laid.
New tea houses welcome weary trekkers, such as my small party, to this majestic valley. We were welcomed with warm, wonderful smiles.
As the sun set, Pasang stumbled and fell heavily onto a rocky outcrop. A broken arm the price to pay for a boulder-laden soccer pitch. With tears in his eyes Pasang’s dad sent word throughout the village; was there a doctor or nurse trekking the valley?
Pasang’s plight soon reached the ‘village doctor’. While not possessing a medical degree, he had lived experience. He knew things.
But with the cold mountain air settling, Pasang was not well. Was in pain. There was no medicine, no pain relief. The village doctor sought our support so we opened our first aid kits wide. Medical supplies that are in such short supply in a remote Himalayan village quickly became available.
With our affluent society mindset, our thoughts turned to calling an ambulance. The stark reality was confronting. Kathmandu was a seven-hour, bone jarring mule ride down a narrow mountain track followed by eight bumpy hours in a crowded bus. Medical attendance in such a remote mountain village was out of the question.
We had to adjust our thinking. Respecting cultural norms, we rendered basic first aid, stabilising the fracture with a piece of firewood fashioned as a splint, bandaging it with a sling and supporting the broken arm. The village doctor applied a local brew that quickly hardened to form a cast.
Our pain relief medication helped Pasang sleep.
As morning dawned, Pasang’s fortunes changed. A helicopter had been called to medivac two trekkers struck with acute mountain sickness—a reality in the thin air above 3,500 metres that can lead to death. A spare seat was available so a little boy was on his way to Kathmandu.
No matter if you are trekking the Himalayas of Nepal or traversing the streets of our beautiful bush capital, you never know when someone might need a helping hand. Knowing first aid can touch lives. It can make a real difference. To find out how you can potentially save a life, visit Training (http://www.stjohnact.com.au/index.php/first-aid-training)
Image courtesy of David Pope
Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.
Article also appeared on 16 April 2019 in The Chronicle