Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Truncated Travels

Annapurna from Pokhara

Sadly, our trip was cut short by an unlucky accident. Shelley fell on a rough hillside, twisted her ankle just the wrong way, and ended up breaking it. At first we thought it was just sprained, but to be safe we carried her to the car and took her to a private clinic for X-rays. They brought us a wheelchair but we had to carry her up the stairs in it. Who puts a medical clinic on the second floor of a building with no elevator! On the positive side, the X-rays only cost $12 :-)  But then it turned out due to a festival holiday and some sort of medical conference there was no doctor so they had to email the X-rays to Kathmandu. Eventually word came back that the ankle was broken and would require surgery. It was a bit of a shock. The clinic tracked down a doctor at one of the hospitals so we carried Shelley back down the stairs and fought our way through the crazy traffic to get there. The doctor confirmed that surgery was required but it was routine and he had done many of them. He said it would require 6 days in hospital. Yikes! Surgery and 6 days in a third world hospital sounded pretty scary. The doctor put a cast on the ankle to immobilize it (the most painful part so far!). The funny part was that we had to go down to the pharmacy ourselves and buy the supplies for the cast.

I had the X-rays emailed to me and forwarded them to a couple of doctor friends. It was the middle of the night at home so I didn't expect a fast response, but thankfully one of them was awake  (thanks David!) and confirmed that the ankle was broken and would require surgery. (bimalleolar fracture - more common in older people and in women for some reason) He agreed that it would be better to have the surgery somewhere else. But we weren't sure where that should be - Kathmandu? Hong Kong? Vancouver? The issue wasn't the surgery itself but the risk of infection. Later, the other friend (thanks Ian!) responded with a similar opinion. He also consulted with his orthopedics department and they said it would be ok to delay the surgery for up to two weeks, and ok to travel as long as the cast wasn't too tight, the ankle was kept elevated, and Shelley stayed well hydrated. (risk of swelling and blood clots).

The earliest flight out of Pokhara wasn't till the next day so we searched for a hotel with an elevator. (Not common here - our current room had a great view but was up five flights of stairs.) The next morning I shipped most of our gear home so we could travel with just carry on.

It was a long trip home - Pokhara to Kathmandu, Kathmandu to Hong Kong, 13 hours in the Hong Kong airport (we got a room in the airport hotel), Hong Kong to Vancouver, Vancouver to Saskatoon - roughly 36 hours from start to finish. We got home about 1am Saskatoon time with a 12 hour time difference

It was strange to be back home so suddenly, back to snow and -20c winter. We had just started to settle into our holiday, getting into the paragliding, finding a favorite coffee shop in Pokhara (White Rabbit), and looking forward to trekking and scuba diving. But considering our adventurous activities, there are much worse things that could have happened. It sounds like Shelley should make a full recovery, although that will take anywhere from three months to a year.

I didn't get much time for photography in Pokhara, but walking along the lakefront to breakfast one day I managed to catch a couple of the common birds. We also saw a brilliantly colored blue kingfisher but I didn't get any photos.

Common (Indian) Myna

Indian Pond Heron

It was sad to leave the Himalaya again, so soon after arriving. Such an amazing place.

Machupuchare from Pokhara


  1. We are so glad that you and Shelley were able to end the trip on a positive note...good medical advice and final treatment. Accidents that are so minor but result in real trauma seem more frustrating than a 'big' accident. it seems like there should be a dramatic story to go with it, not a mundane one. And yet, the result is just as disappointing. When I tripped in Maui, I just had to suck it up and recognize that it was not the end of the world, just a big change in activity plans. Now, 4.5 weeks later, I am able to walk with crutch support without pain. I hope that your recovery goes well, Shelley. The adventures will be there for you when you are ready again!

  2. No chance. It is very annoying to stop a trip, but it is important now for Shelley to take the time to recover properly, and there will be other opportunities to travel. I wish him a good recovery.