DILEMMAS IN DAY-TO-DAY CARE
A TIONAL JEMSAR
HEMS crew navigates treacherous terrain in Nepal’s dense jungle
By Sanjaya Karki, MD, MBBS
It’s the middle of the day and the Grande International Hospital (GIH) EMS hotline receives a call from a group of travelers who had been out trekking in a remote jungle near Pokhara, Nepal, and
had overturned their vehicle.
The GIH-based helicopter EMS (HEMS) air ambulance team
is activated. With three sets of jump bags always ready to go,
The helicopter carries the team toward Tanchowk, a lush forested
area located in the Lumle Village Development Committee in the Kaski
District, about 5,600 feet ( 1,700 meters) above sea level and 28 miles
( 45 km) northwest of Pokhara, where the Annapurna base camp—a
popular site for tourists who want to trek in the Himalayas—is located.
The helicopter’s pilot, Captain Suraj Thapa from Heli Everest (a
private helicopter tour company), is familiar with the area, and
rescuers on board are in constant touch with the patients via
After flying for 42 minutes, however, rescuers can’t pinpoint
the exact location of the patients, who report hearing the helicopter hovering above them, but can’t see it. They tell the crew
they’re waving a red bandana—but rescuers can’t see them, either.
Unable to locate the patients after circling above the vicinity of the
scene, Thapa lands in the village near Lumle and the team asks for the
precise location of Tanchowk.
A cloud of rising smoke could be seen from the helicopter, identifying the loca-
tion of the accident. Photos courtesy Sanjaya Karki
The patient is carried to the waiting helicopter for transfer to Grande Interna-
tional Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal.