The first few days of training involved learning the foundations of patient assessment, mixed with some challenging medical and trauma topics (i.e. diabetes and chest trauma). Our emphasis was on finding life threats, with priority on airway management… the most fundamentally important skills and concepts for keeping people alive. The Sherpas’ command of the English language was impressive, and actually very little translation was needed from our assistant instructor Phunuru.
SOI is committed to running 24 hour WFA’s in countries where English is not the students’ primary language. The extra hours are worth it; we are confident the extended course assures the the competency of our students at their level of training. Thus, our third and final day allows for more questions and avoids the risk of rushing through challenging topics. The Sherpa students became so comfortable with what we had covered the first few days, there were only few questions. So after some good wound management and splinting practice, we were able to focus on patient movement from single person short carries, to improvised stretchers, and even improvised sleds for descending with a patient down steep terrain such as the Lhotse Face on Everest. To finish off our last day we discussed helicopter safety and operations, spending nearly an hour walking around the village to identify an alternative landing zone. We ended up finding a very centralized location that should serve well with some improvements. Hopefully Sentinel can help with this project in the new year!
As an extra bonus for this course, we woke up early and assembled at the current Phortse helicopter landing zone to await a live training with an Astar B2 we arranged to come to Phortse for the training. We confirmed the sight was safe and practiced good helicopter landing technique as the bird touched down. We were fortunate enough to have nearly 45 minutes of training with the actual helicopter: practicing door operation, examining gear compartments, looking at seat belt styles, practicing how to load a stretcher, and even discussing fuel shutoffs and rotor brake levers for emergencies.
Certification cards were then awarded and thanks were shared. In classic Sherpa style, we were then given Khatas (Buddhist scarves) as a blessing for our safe flight and a symbol of thanks. The helicopter then “fired up” with blades turning, while the students organized for their last scenario: safely loading myself and Phunuru who “could not walk.” They pulled it off in a very safe manner, and Phunuru and I were shortly airborne, headed for Lukla, where I said my goodbyes to my good friend and traveled by fixed wing back to Kathmandu.
It was truly an honor to teach my coworkers and see their success with such challenging subject matter. As an organization we are thrilled to have taught our first course in Nepal and look forward to more courses in Phortse and other beautiful locations of Nepal in need of high quality wilderness medicine training.