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World Racer Saves a Life on Everest Base Camp

  Climbing Everest is not a part of the World Race. But we encourage Racers to find adventure wherever they go. One team took advantage of their time in Nepal by hiking to Everest Base Camp. But, as recounted by Rachel Hargreaves, a nurse currently on the Race, they never expected to be fac…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

 From rachelhargreaves.theworldrace.org

Climbing Everest is not a part of the World Race. But we encourage Racers to find adventure wherever they go. One team took advantage of their time in Nepal by hiking to Everest Base Camp. But, as recounted by Rachel Hargreaves, a nurse currently on the Race, they never expected to be faced with a life-and-death situation there.


As soon as I saw him, I knew.

“Can you come in here please? He’s making this really weird, scary noise that I’ve never heard before.”

Before I heard it, I already knew.

In critical care, it’s called, “the death rattle.

The all-too-familiar sound pierced my heart. So many times before I had heard this sound and not let it permeate me. This time though – this time I felt it.

Deep. In my very being.

This man was going to die.

I woke up that morning after a hellish night. I woke up anticipating to have to announce to my teammates that I could no longer go on and to go ahead without me.

One of the trekkers we had met on the trail came into the small, sunlit dining room and interrupted us.

“Hey Rachel, you’re a nurse right?”


“Well there’s this guy downstairs in the next lodge who isn’t doing so well. Thought you might be able to take a look at him?”

February is the beginning of the season here on Everest. Even though it is “technically” in season, the villages are still ghost towns, the weather is cold and unpredictable, and any form of medical treatment is nonexistent.

Working in the ICU in Oregon, I have never dealt with altitude sickness or been exposed to it. I knew that, at its end stages, it evolved into cerebral and/or pulmonary edema. Both of which I am very familiar with in the ICU.

I walked towards his open room door. There were several people gathered outside. He was laying flat on his bed in his many layers.

I smiled and met his gaze through his half-opened eye lids. I immediately snapped back into my nurse mode. 

I reached for his pulse. It was fast and irregular.

Through translation and looking through this man’s bag and wallet, we discovered that he was Chinese, travelling all by himself, without a guide or insurance. He had arrived in Lukla a day after us and had arrived here in Dingboche three days ago. A trek of 1760 meters or almost 6,000 vertical feet that had taken us five days he had done in two.

The only medicinal treatment for altitude sickness is diamox, which I was actually able to get him to swallow before he became extremely lethargic. But the only real treatment for mountain sickness is to quickly descend in altitude.

I walked outside his room to talk with the people who had gathered. They were discussing what to do. Most were under the impression that because he didn’t have any insurance or money, there was nothing that could be done.

That’s when the woman came out of the room and said, “Can you come in here please? He’s making this really weird, scary noise that I’ve never heard before.”

My heart began to beat faster as I quickly went back to the room and got the man into a sitting position, maintaining his airway.

He had developed flash pulmonary edema.

He was drowning in his own lungs, gurgling with every breath.

I walked out of the room back to the group arguing outside. I interrupted them and let them know that this man was going to die, and soon, if he didn’t get down in elevation. He needed a helicopter evac now!

They argued about money. Money. I frustratingly said, “I don’t care about the money, you can put it on my card, just call for the dang helicopter, this man is going to die!”

Thankfully, while I was in the room, another man fought very passionately to get the owner of the lodge to call for the helicopter. They had to come from Kathmandu – a two hour flight.

There was only one option.


From rachelhargreaves.theworldrace.org

A sense of urgency rushed over me as I showed the woman who had been translating for us, how to keep the Chinese man in an upright position in order to maintain his airway. I hurried out the door and started towards our lodge. I was on a mission.

As my team all filed into the tiny room, I was anxious about what God might do. But as we laid our hands on his limp body and began to pray, I felt peace. 

The next two hours were the longest of my life. Counting the minutes, giving oxygen, trying to keep this man conscious and breathing, constantly having two fingers on his pulse, waiting. Just waiting for it to stop.

There was nothing left that I could do to help this man. All I could do was keep him upright to keep him from drowning in his own lungs. 

Then the lodge owner walked in and announced that the helicopter would be here within minutes. Before I even knew what was happening, an old, tiny Sherpa had picked up the man and began carrying him to the landing pad.

He was barely breathing. Yellow fluid from his lungs was leaking from his mouth.

My mind went back to the thought of having to perform CPR on this man. He was still holding on. I couldn’t believe he had made it this far alive. As I gave the rest of the oxygen that was left in the can, my eyes were glued to his chest – watching it faintly rise and fall, waiting for it to stop at any second.

Finally, in the distance, the sound of a helicopter’s propellers.

From rachelhargreaves.theworldrace.org

As we watched it fly towards us, my heart could start beating again.

It stopped for a brief second as it flew next to us and then continued to fly on past us. We looked on in disbelief, thinking it was leaving.

Then the helicopter began to make a wide right turn, back towards us. 

It was on the ground no longer than two minutes. We picked him up and carried him the last twenty feet to the helicopter. 

Quickly, he was up inside and the doors were closed. Then the helicopter disappear from sight, quickly diving down in elevation, vanishing behind the cliff it had just landed on.

Adrenalin still pumping, amazed at what had happened, we returned to camp.

Later we learned that the Chinese man had made it to a Kathmandu hospital alive and was expected to make a full recovery. 

God saved this man’s life. 

His love truly is extravagant. It knows no borders, no limits, no boundaries.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Comments (10)

  • Wow. My heart was beating fast just reading this! All praise to our God for this rescue. He places us on the exact dot on the map where we can bring kingdom life.

  • I feel rooted to my chair after reading that. Just completely struck. I cannot even imagine. Jesus, you are so, so kind.

  • Praising God. He’s working all around us…and using His people to save lives. Physically and spiritually. Beautiful.

  • Praise the Lord who saves! Thankful for Rachel’s heart and bravery. What an amazing story of hope.

  • Praise God for his life, and for all of yours’. I was cringing to see all of you walking under spinning props without ducking. You could have lost your heads! Those blades dip.

  • As Mordecai reminded Esther “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I’m thankful that you heard God’s call and were exactly where God had ordained.

  • From one critical care nurse to another, Well done! While I would have done what I could have I think that he was lucky God placed you there! I love to see Him work like that!

Comments are closed.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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