(Courtesy of Robert Kay)
Rob Kay and Ben Darlington, 7 days after summiting
A remarkable story emerged from the 2016 spring climbing season on Everest. It’s a story of selflessness and sacrifice in the face of some pretty bad odds.
It started with a thank you to Global Rescue from climber Ben Darlington, who needed a rescue from Mount Everest. But before Global Rescue helped Darlington, he helped save another climber.
“After summiting Mount Everest, I assisted in a rescue of a fellow climber that was in a very critical condition,” Darlington wrote. “As the rescue was taking place, I got Stage 4 frostbite. Global Rescue organised an evacuation out of base camp, had someone meet me at a hospital lower in the valley, and took me to Kathmandu for treatment. Global Rescue then organised flights, wheelchairs and appointments for me back home and continued to follow up. Other climbers used other companies and had huge issues. I wouldn't travel without Global Rescue membership ever again. Keep the good work up.”
That fellow climber Darlington helped was Robert Kay. He had attempted several Everest summits, finally achieving his goal in 2016. Rob had summited at about the same time as Darlington and his wife, Laura, of Canberra, Australia.
However, Rob’s trouble began on the descent, with symptoms of high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE).
“I couldn’t breathe. It was obvious I was in trouble. I’d take 15 or 20 steps and have to stop. I was moving like a snail,” Rob said.
In one section, he slid down 1,000 vertical feet on the rope, yet even that was tiring.
“At one point, I started convulsing. [Ben and Laura] put me in a tent and stayed up with me all night. I couldn’t even hold my head up, so they held it up to give me medicine. I was super tired, having been up for 36 hours. Finally, they got me down. It took 12 hours rather than three or four.”
Global Rescue coordinated Rob’s evacuation from Camp 2 to Kathmandu. Today, he has recovered and is back home in Nebraska, working to gain back the 35 pounds he lost during his ordeal.
Rob wrote in his blog:
“The long cold night in the tent at C4 gave Ben very serious frostbite on all of his right toes. He never said a word to anyone but just bravely and privately endured this nightmare. He helped me down for 4,500’ on the Lhotse at tremendous personal cost. He then declined a helicopter ride from C2 and made his own way to base camp with Laura. It was only then that he told anyone of his own problems.
“The following morning he was stretchered to the helipad in base camp and brought to the same clinic that I am in. He is undergoing a treatment with a very promising trial medicine that requires a six hour infusion every day for five days. I have spent as much time with him as my exhausted body will allow and I am blown away by his positive attitude and humble strength. Please keep Ben in your thoughts and prayers as he faces a huge battle to keep all of his toes.”
Global Rescue followed up with Ben for more details:
When did you realize that Robert was in serious trouble? I saw Robert on the summit and on my descent I was thinking he didn’t look right.
How did you come to the decision to stay and help, even as you risked frostbite? Once back at camp 4, I told Laura I thought Robert may need help. We both agreed to stay. There are risks but I believed they were low.
How does it make you feel that Robert survived due to your efforts? I was very pleased that Robert managed to survive the ordeal. It was a team effort and I have learnt how strong the will to live can be if you have support around you. Whilst we were descending to camp 2 from camp 4, Robert believed a helicopter was coming and this helped keep him going. Without Global Rescue, hope would have failed.
How long have you been a Global Rescue member? I have only been a member for 12 months but we see Laura and myself back in Nepal next year and we will be taking out cover with Global Rescue again.
From his home in Australia, Ben later wrote that he was booked for surgery in early September “as my toes have finally fallen off.” Following the surgery, he relayed that he was “recovering well. Even tried running today!”
Check out Everest Rescue – “I Thought I Was Dead” from Discovery, which highlights the incredible story of Rob and Ben on Everest.
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