Sunday 2 April 2017
After eating the meat at the BBQ, my tummy was a bit uncomfortable and I didn’t really sleep very well. We had to go for testing between 7-8am so Amanda (my room mate) and I got up at 7am and went to the lab.
The Xtreme Everest team are doing various pieces of research on this trip and there is also a team from the University of Nebraska. For Xtreme Everest the first thing we had to do was measure our resting oxygen (O2) saturation levels and heart beats per minute (b.p.m.) via a little gadget attached to the end of our right index finger. The next test we had to do was record our blood pressure, and then count how many breaths we took in one minute. We were doing it in pairs and measuring each other. The final part was to measure our O2 levels and b.p.m. whilst doing exercise, so we had to step up and down a step, one step every one second for two minutes. Even though we are only at 1,400m, therefore no altitude sickness or anything, as you are above sea level your heart has to work harder. After doing 2mins of steps my heart rate was 135 b.p.m.! Yikes. All of this research is examining how people’s bodies respond (in terms of O2 saturation and heart rate) at different altitudes. This is going to be looked at in conjunction with the tests the guys from the US are doing. These would be later in the day, mine was luckily at 9.45am so I had time for a relaxed breakfast and then wandered over to the lab.
The Nebraskan guys are doing two pieces of research, the first needs a sample of blood. I have tried to interpret into layman’s terms what they are doing; they are measuring cardiac strain by looking at the blood in some way, analysing two different peptides that can signal heart failure and measuring haemoglobin levels. The second is an echocardiogram, which was quite exciting (even more so as the guy doing the echoes (Walker) is quite fit – hehe), which takes pictures and records the sound of both sides of the heart and the lungs. I had to strip my top half down to my bra (covered up with a blanket, so don’t worry, I didn’t expose all and sundry to Walker) and then he put two electrodes on my chest and one on my side and then used a handheld probe to scan. The first piece of good news is, I do have a heart! Haha. I assume if it wasn’t normal he would have said something so the other piece of good news is that my heart appears to be normal. Yay.
The final test is a microbiome test, where we have to swab our foreheads, tongues and (I don’t want to tell you) swab a bit of our poo. This does not mean we have to stick a swab up our bum! Just take it from used toilet paper (phew, I was worried for a second until they explained it). This is just to see how many micro-organisms we pick up over the course of the trek.
So that’s all the tests. We have to repeat them three times – once in Kathmandu, once when we get to Namche (height 3,445m) and the final set at Pheriche (4,371m) so that they can compare the results from each of the tests to see how the levels change as the altitude increases.
As we will be eating Nepalese food for days and days on the trek I didn’t feel bad about having a BLT for lunch and for relaxing in the afternoon until our medical briefing at 6pm. On the Sheffield weekend they had explained to us about HAPE and HACE (see Sheffield blog entry) but going through it again when actually sitting in Nepal I must admit I did feel a little nervous. What will be will be, I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
The rest of the evening was spent packing and re-packing, it ended up being like a comedy sketch. We are allowed 15kg in our kit bag (issued in Sheffield) and 5kg in our day sack – airline rules, as we will be getting a teeny tiny plane tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn to Lukla. There was a set of scales outside our trek leader Kay’s room. To get there we had to come out of my room, walk along the outside corridor, down a staircase that has a spiral at the top, under an arch, along a path, up two flights of stairs and then along the corridor to the room. My kit bag was really light so I was feeling smug, however I collected my sleeping bag and down jacket suddenly it was panic stations! After spending so many months planning the exact items I was going to take on the trek I now had to re-evaluate to try and lose weight. Both Amanda and I, after much umming and arring and two visits to the scales, risking life and limb carrying a massive kit bag and rucksack up and down all the stairs, we were finally happy at around midnight! The alarm was set for 5am and we snuggled down for the night.