UAE: Doctor takes children, patient with osteoarthritis on inspirational trek to Mount Everest

Among the biggest challenges was to motivate them, surgeon says

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By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Tue 7 Jun 2022, 7:54 PM

A Dubai-based knee-replacement surgeon, his daughter, two other children, and his patient suffering from osteoarthritis, made an arduous trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest to prove the power of mind over body.

Dr Azam Badar Khan, who practices orthopaedic surgery at Prime Hospital Dubai, said he undertook the journey with his patient and children in order to inculcate a sense of adventure among the younger generation and to show patients that mental fortitude can triumph over physical adversity.

Apart from the children and others in the group, including his youngest daughter Jaza, 12, Dr Khan was accompanied by his patient Rajesh who has been suffering from chronic osteoarthritis for over 15 years.

The 16 member group attempting the trek, spanned in ages from 12 to over 60. The group flew to Kathmandu from Dubai on May 22 and from there took another flight to Lukla - the nearest airport to Mt Everest and considered by many to be the world’s most dangerous due to its precipitous location surrounded by forbidding peaks deep in the Nepal Himalayas.

Beginning the trek from Lukla, the adventurers first reached Phakding and then, on May 24, marched towards Namche Bazaar, where they rested for the day to acclimatise to the high altitude and lack of oxygen.

“Acclimatising to the climatic conditions and to the lower the availability of oxygen is a must in treks of this nature,” explained Dr Khan.

Resuming from Namche Bazaar, the group reached Tengboche at an altitude of 3860 metres above sea level. Then, on May 27, they trekked for over 10 gruelling kilometres, climbing even higher to Dingboche, where they rested the next day for acclimatisation. The adventurers stopped next at Loboche and Gorakshep before reaching the base camp of Mt Everest on May 31 after trekking for nearly 65km over a period of eight days. The camp sits at an altitude of 5,364 metres.

After spending an entire day at the base camp, in the shadow of Everest and some of the world’s highest mountain peaks, Dr Khan and his group returned to Lukla airport by helicopter and then flew back to Kathmandu and on to Dubai.

Challenge for children

Among the biggest challenges on the trek was to motivate the children to keep going in the face of tiredness, said Dr Khan. “Jaza found several stretches of the journey a tough ask but was willing to accomplish it. I am happy and proud she did it,” said Dr Khan, pointing out that mental power is limitless and can help one override physical shortcomings.

“If a person is mentally prepared to accomplish a task, then his lack of physical strength is not a barrier,” said Dr Khan, recounting how the adults motivated the children.

“We were all quite tired, but what kept us and the children moving forward was motivation. Whenever my daughter felt exhausted, I had to motivate her and boost her morale. This is something we should do continuously - push the mental capacity of a child.”

With exposure to such challenging activities as trekking to remote places which pushes their mental and physical limits, children develop a mindset of fulfilling any assignment in life, said the doctor.

“People should consider such treks for their holidays. It will not only strengthen family bonds but also prepare children for challenges in life.”

Travelling with his patient

The children aside, it was also a matter of great mental fortitude that Rajesh, who has a chronic, debilitating condition like osteoarthritis, was able to accomplish the trek.

Dr Khan said his patient had wanted to do the base camp trek for a long time, but his medical condition did not allow him. Rajesh had opted out of knee replacement surgery on Dr Khan’s advice.

“I have been following all instructions given by the doctor, from stretching and exercising to everything else he has recommended - and I was able to complete my trek smoothly.” said Rajesh.

Though a surgeon, Dr Khan says surgery is not always the answer. “The day you realise you have a bad knee you should start working on your muscles with exercises and stretches, as well as with various other non-surgical therapies. You can sustain your knees for a long time before requiring replacement. The solution lies within. Don’t depend on your doctor entirely for it,” said the surgeon.

Past summits

Dr Khan has always been an avid traveller and his quest for adventure since his teens has taken him several times to the Himalayas in India and Nepal. But more than travelling, what inspires him is his ardent desire to encourage people with orthopaedic issues to experience the joys of nature and lead an active lifestyle.

“People get so immersed in their routine life that they forget what their heart really wants. Many people I know would like to do such adventurous activities, but have not been able to move in this direction as there is a gap between intention and implementation. I aspire to help them translate their intention into implementation and take a step towards nature,” said Dr Khan.

It was this though that led him to take a group of six doctors to scale the 5895m tall Mt Kilimanjaro in March 2021, successfully summiting the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Dr Khan is also involved in many philanthropic and charitable activities, from providing food to free knee replacement for the underprivileged.

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