Look: SEHA doctors scale Everest Base Camp

The medical professionals said that the experience felt like 'saving someone's life'

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Dr Thiagarajan Jaiganesh and Dr Subrahmanyam Srinivas at the Everest Base Camp
Dr Thiagarajan Jaiganesh and Dr Subrahmanyam Srinivas at the Everest Base Camp

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Wed 15 Jun 2022, 9:30 PM

Last updated: Wed 15 Jun 2022, 9:31 PM

Two Al Ain-based frontline doctors have scaled the base camp of the world’s highest peak – Mount Everest. The doctors, who are in their 50s, underlined that the happiness and gratification of reaching the top after a seven-day climb was like that experienced after saving a person’s life in the operation theatre.

“It was a lot of hard work but the satisfaction of reaching each stage, and finally to the base camp, was a joyful time. You forget the pangs of walking 60 km. At that moment, all those feelings disappear. It’s like when you save somebody’s life. You forget the struggles and stress of the day when you bring somebody back to life or treat somebody and bring a smile on their faces. You feel like you have achieved something for yourself,” said Dr Thiagarajan Jaiganesh, Chair of Department, ER-Trauma Center, Medical Affairs, at Tawam Hospital, which is managed by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA).

Dr Jaiganesh pointed out that the journey was a lesson in humility.

“We are thankful to the Almighty for a lot of small things in our lives. We are grateful to be working in such a lovely country compared to some of the people we saw there who were struggling to live in harsh conditions. During the pandemic, they lost all their livelihood as tourism was affected.”

SEHA doctors at Cho La Pass
SEHA doctors at Cho La Pass

Dr Jaiganesh was accompanied by his colleague Dr Subrahmanyam Srinivas, consultant emergency physician at Tawam Hospital. The Indian-origin doctors from the UK have been hiking and mountaineering for a while. In the pre-pandemic days, they had done hiking on the slopes of Machu Picchu in Peru, which was an unexpected trek after a work-related tour to the US. But they could not carry on with their new-found love for mountaineering, which was hit by an unexpected Covid-19 wave.

Aiming to stay fit during the pandemic, the doctors looked for activities beyond the gym, and that’s how they took to mountain climbing.

“We wanted to keep ourselves more active and try something different. We started to go hiking to Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and other places. We pushed ourselves a bit further as we tested mountains in Kyrgyzstan in December last year. It was cold but it went well. So, next we thought why not Mount Everest,” Dr Jaiganesh said.

The UAE has several mountain ranges for hiking and trekking
The UAE has several mountain ranges for hiking and trekking

On their common weeks off, they hiked and trekked in the UAE’s diverse terrains such as Jebel Jais, Jebel Hafeet, Wadi Ghalilah, Wadi Shawka, and the experience of tolerating cold weather in Kyrgyzstan, served as a nice prep for the Mount Everest expedition.

“The uphill climbs in the UAE helped to boost our stamina and endurance. In Kyrgyzstan, we had managed steep climbs of 3,000m to 4,000m at -5°C to -7°C. And I had a very good teammate. Dr Sreenivas is an avid hiker and mountaineer. He is a humble person and I had to force him to pose for photos.”

A successful expedition in Kyrgyzstan gave the doctors knowledge on acclimatising to cold weather, right equipment and gear to use, altitude-related health issues, and so on.

“My family lives in London. I usually travel there instead of going out on such trips. But they understood that the last two years were tough work during the pandemic. So, they supported my decision,” Dr Jaiganesh noted.

By March, the doctors finalised an itinerary and set off to Kathmandu in Nepal. Their adventure quotient was spiced up as they landed at the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal’s Lukla. With one of the shortest runways in existence, it is referred to as the world’s most dangerous airport.

“Only light aircrafts land there, and they are very strict about the capacity and weights you can carry.”

Dr Thiagarajan Jaiganesh on a glacier walk
Dr Thiagarajan Jaiganesh on a glacier walk

Starting the 120-km round trip from Lukla, their preparations came handy, and they were always ahead of their set schedule. The duo climbed 5,364m to reach the base in just seven days and returned in some five days, and one day to cross over.

“We were reasonably surprised that we were fitter than we expected ourselves to be. We reached the base a day or two earlier. But we didn’t come down the same way. We cut across through the glaciers. We went to Cho La Pass and the Gokyo frozen lakes.”

The doctors also offered medication to a few climbers who had issues with altitude sickness.

SEHA docs at Everest base camp
SEHA docs at Everest base camp

After returning to their hospital, they have found that now colleagues are becoming health conscious.

“Now a lot of colleagues who were a bit overweight have started to exercise, diet and become fit. Now a person in early 40s will be joining us on our trek to Mount Kilimanjaro in July.”

Dr Jaiganesh thanked SEHA and the top management for their unflinching support and care.

“SEHA and Tawam have looked after us very well. We feel privileged to be working here. The CEO has been very supportive. Now you don’t feel the stress of working long hours as you have enhanced your stamina and endurance. We are looking forward to reaching Mount Kilimanjaro next.”


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