PEI

Islander airlifted off Everest trail after contracting a parasite

About a week into Susan Walsh's ascent to Everest base camp, she and her husband had to abandon their journey when she fell ill.

Susan Walsh had to abandon the climb at 4,700 metres

Susan Walsh had to be airlifted from the Everest trail after she fell ill. (Susan Walsh/Facebook)

About a week into Susan Walsh's ascent up the Everest trail in Nepal, she and her husband had to abandon their journey when she fell ill.

The Island couple were two days short of the base camp when she became sick, situated at an altitude of 4,700 metres.

We've had the angels at every turn, just the right people were there to take care of us. I can't say enough about the people here in Nepal.- Susan Walsh

The group was ahead of schedule and their guide suggested staying an extra day so she might recover in time to continue.

"I originally had hoped it was just a little bit of a bug," Walsh said.

"But unfortunately that didn't happen."

Difficult decisions

She said the altitude compounded the sickness and she was becoming very dehydrated when the two needed to make a difficult decision. 

"My husband actually made the call to phone the helicopter for evacuation," she said.

"Really hard, really really hard. Not just for us."

Walsh is an avid hiker and has been to the Everest base camp once before. (Susan Walsh/Facebook)

Walsh and her husband had made it to base camp on their previous trip to Nepal three years ago, but her friend was on her first trip up the mountain.

Her husband told their friend that Walsh would need to be airlifted off the mountain.

"My friend said 'well if you're going down, I'll go down,' and he said 'no you're going to continue,'" she said.

"So that was a pretty tearful goodbye."

Evacuation

Within 20 minutes of her husband's call for a helicopter to take them off the trail, the airlift arrived and took them to a small town where they met a second helicopter which took them to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.

An ambulance met them on the airstrip there and she was taken to a private clinic.

"I have to say, medically wise, it was pretty seamless," Walsh said.

It was a no-brainer, I had to come out of there, it was not safe for me to stay in the mountains.- Susan Walsh

"There was absolutely no waiting."

Once she was seen by a doctor she was told she had picked up a parasite called E. histolytica ,which can be fatal if left untreated.

Wednesday was her first day medication-free since beginning her treatment.

A clear choice

Though she was disappointed, Walsh said the decision to abandon the trek was the right one.

"It was a no-brainer, I had to come out of there, it was not safe for me to stay in the mountains."

She said even though the trip didn't go the way she hoped the journey has been eye-opening. 

"It's all good. The first time we went to Everest base camp you know it was all about the mountain, and this time it's been a different journey and it's been every bit as powerful," she said.

Walsh is thankful for all the support she received after falling ill in Nepal. (Susan Walsh/Facebook)

"We've had the angels at every turn, just the right people were there to take care of us. I can't say enough about the people here in Nepal."

Walsh said the manager at the hotel stayed with her in hospital when her husband was making arrangements to get home.

"We've been really well taken care of … certainly, almost a spiritual journey ... our faith in humanity, I mean I never doubted it, but it's been one of those experiences where you just go, 'people are pretty good,'" Walsh said.

"We're feeling pretty lucky."

With files from Laura Chapin