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Struggling to Breathe On Aconcagua


September 30, 2020
Categories: Member Testimonials

When you’re feeling unwell, the last thing you want to think about is the logistics of getting to the doctor.

Multiply that anxiety tenfold when you are feeling unwell while traveling abroad.

Sophie Turner, a nurse and coach, recently went on an expedition to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas at 6,961 meters (22,837 feet). She had been training for her first high-altitude experience for six months.

“At 5,500 meters (18,044 feet), my chest deteriorated overnight,” the Global Rescue member said. “I was struggling to breathe. By the morning, I was very unwell with all the signs of high-altitude pulmonary edema.”

High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), is when the vessels in the lungs constrict in response to the low-oxygen environment. Fluid leaks from the blood vessels into the lung tissues and accumulates, causing a life-threatening situation for otherwise healthy people. Symptoms are a productive cough, rattling breaths and extreme fatigue.

“As soon as I woke up that night not breathing, I knew what was happening,” Turner said. “I just couldn’t do much in the middle of the night so I opted to stay calm. In the morning, the first thing I did was to tell the guides I needed to go down ASAP.”

Turner descended to base camp — a trek to Plaza Argentina at 4,200 meters (13,799 feet) which took most of the day — and was assessed by a doctor.

“My symptoms had not sufficiently resolved/improved at a lower altitude so I needed to get off the mountain as soon as possible,” she said. “The team phoned Global Rescue.”

Turner, who traveled to Argentina from Australia, was pleased at the quick response. Global Rescue worked with the tour operator to arrange transport from Plaza Argentina to Hospital Espanol in Mendoza.

“Everything happened seamlessly in the background,” Turner said. “All I needed to do was focus on my breathing and collect my things for the flight out. I was impressed with the efficiency at which all parties coordinated my rescue from base camp. I did not need to provide further information — they had it all at the start.”

Turner was also impressed with Global Rescue’s follow up.

“Global Rescue continued to monitor my well-being and ensure any medical advice I received in a non-English speaking country was appropriate. This took all the stress out of being in a foreign country and health system,” she said.

Could Turner have made the arrangements on her own?

“The coordination efforts required would have taken more time and caused unnecessary stress,” Turner said. “With Global Rescue, I was relieved, safe and in good hands.”

As she trains for her next climb, she’ll be sure to keep her Global Rescue travel membership handy.

“I’ll happily stay with Global Rescue throughout my planned adventures,” Turner said.


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