So I Hear It’s Your Birthday

I write this from Kathmandu.  We arrived yesterday via a helicopter rescue from the Khumbu glacier just below Everest base camp.

To fully understand why it is I am here and where I just came from… at 16,500 foot elevation there is nothing.  Rock, ice and yaks.  The yaks are everywhere and the Sherpa use the dung as fuel for their fires.  The air is permeated with the smoke and dust from this fuel source.  We wear cloths over our nose and mouth and I believe hacking, spewing and nose picking to be the number one pastime in Nepal.

Somewhere along the climb I experienced a sharp pain in my lower right side.  True to form I ignored it.  A few days later it was more pronounced so I took a pain pill.  Upon reaching 16,500 it was difficult to stand up and now we became concerned.  We hiked to the village of Penboche to seek the advice of the Himalayan rescue mission where a doctor diagnosed me with possible appendicitis and recommended immediate rescue from the mountain.  The remoteness of the region, and the lack of sanitation or any medical facilities other than a hut surrounded by yak, made this not the best place to find oneself with appendicitis.  A helicopter was dispatched and flew me to Kathmandu and an awaiting ambulance.  I spent the last 24 hours in the Kathmandu hospital on an IV under the care of a Pakistani surgeon who was more than willing to operate.  I am now “out” of the hospital and will be returning to the US as soon as I am “released” from the hospital.  They have kept my passport, visa and Blue Cross and Blue Shield card (not sure why but I think they think I am a US official)

I have to admit I would rather climb Everest backwards and blindfolded than go through what I just experienced the last 24 hours.  I found the hospital frightening to say the least.  Not speaking Nepalese or Hindi (as this was a Hindu hospital to which I was taken) and not knowing what I was being administered nor what they wanted to do was extreme.

I am now happily at a cyber cafe where the Internet is a mere 25 rupees per hour compared to the 30 per minute at 14,000 feet, and am awaiting my trip back to the US.  Oh yea, after I “get released” from the hospital.

The good news!!!  Brooke and I return August 24 to climb Cho Oyu.  I am even leaving all my climbing gear here – although I am taking my appendix home with me.  Guess we were supposed to climb that mountain after all!

As always, the universe truly does provide, and I am ever so grateful that I have once again been so very well provided for.  The Khumbu Valley is magic and the Sherpa who live there are an amazing, warm and wonderful people.  I can’t wait to be with them again.

To Dawa Tenzing my high altitude Sherpa, Dawa Gelising Sherpa our base camp and overall project manager, Nema Sherpa, along with the 20 other Sherpa… you took incredible care of me and I know you will continue to see me through my mission.  I look forward to returning to you in August to experience Cho Oyu and beyond.

On April 24th I celebrated my birthday.  Nothing unusual about this annual event except that the Buddhist religion does not recognise birthdays, so this is something very unfamiliar to our Sherpa.  True to form, Dawa baked me a chocolate cake (remember no electricity, no oven), but there it was a chocolate cake complete with a candle and a huge bottle of Johnny Walker Red!!!  My very best birthday yet with all these Sherpas happily singing something that kind of sort of sounded like “happy birthday to you.”

Another lesson learned was what it really means to be a climber in some of the remotest places in the world.  It’s never the summit that counts – ultimately, it is how you come out after a dangerous and possibly life threatening situation.

Happy Birthday to me… Cho Oyu, I’m ready for you!

Climb On!

Wendy

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8 Responses to “So I Hear It’s Your Birthday”


  1. 1 Jen April 27, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    All of your Boulder peeps are ready to take you out to Centro as a welcome home party. I am glad you are safe, now get back home safe too! Love, Jen

  2. 2 Jen April 27, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    One other comment: you should really be singing in your show-tunes tone “Oh Cho Oyu, how I love ya how I love ya”
    Can wait to pick you up at the airport! – Jen

  3. 3 Jen April 27, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    oops I mean I CAN’T wait to pick you up at the airport (its early). 🙂

  4. 4 Wendy Drake April 27, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Wen…we are glad you’re safe. We (Della, Liz, Caragh and Jen) had dinner appropriately at “Sherpa’s” in Boulder last night. Jen caught us all up and we had our own war stories (which pale in comparison…GEEZ!) from the DRATS Festival in Fruita last weekend. Can’t wait to see you…on the bike, on the trails, on your way back to Cho Oyu. Safe Travels, Drake

  5. 5 Josh Jones April 28, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Glad to hear that you are okay my friend. I have been thinking about you ever since I found out today. Give me a call when you get a chance, we need to catch up on things. Be safe and take care. Josh

  6. 6 Maida and Bob April 28, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Wendy dear heart………….

    You are NEVER boring!!!!!!! Holy smokes girlfriend! We love you and are thinking about you and PLEASE let all of your great Boulder friends noursh and care for you as we would!

    Lot’s of love………….

    Maida and Bobby

  7. 7 kathleen May 2, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Wendy a belated Happy Birthday to you! Wow it’s always an adventure with you! I am so happy that you’re safe and hopefully the surgery is/was a succes! How scary that must have been. We miss you and heard that you, your trainer, and Brook may be headed back to Boston! What a role model and trooper. I tried to interpret the French interview- Your photos are wonderful! Take care and we’ll keep following along vicariously through your adventures (not the hospital one though!) Fondly Kathleen

  8. 8 Pamela Maiello May 4, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    You are a true inspiritation. I try to live my life with joy and happiness and positive thinking, but lately have had some health issues. As soon as I heard your story on CBS this morning I realized that nothing is insurmountable. Thank you so very, very much. My thoughts, my good vibes, prayers and gratefulness go with you on each of your journeys! You are Amazingly Awesome!


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About Wendy Booker

In June of 1998, this 55 year old mother of three was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS after experiencing balance problems, blurred vision and numbness on her left side. When first diagnosed, Wendy was devastated. But it took very little time for her to transform anguish into inspiration. She immediately turned her hobby of casual running into a continuous pursuit and has now completed nine marathons.

Mountain climbing became the next conquest. Wendy learned about a team of mountain climbers with Multiple Sclerosis who were attempting to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. With no previous climbing experience, she dedicated a year to hard training and set off with them in 2002. Although weather conditions prohibited the team from completing, Wendy attempted the summit again in 2004 on her own and she succeeded!

The feeling of accomplishment she experienced propelled her next aspiration: to climb the highest mountain on each continent. Just five years later, Wendy Booker has successfully reached the top of six of The Seven Summits – Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif and Mt. Kosciuszko. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on earth, still awaits for 2010.


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