her first night at the Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic, where she had
volunteered to treat patients for the two-month spring climbing season, Dr. Ola
Dunin-Bell discovered her tent sat next to a major yak route.
quickly she realized how challenging life at the clinic — consisting of a small
two-man tent as her private sleeping quarters, a large tube-shaped tent housing
the clinic and a kitchen/dining building with stacked rock walls and a blue
tarp roof — would be.
most of April and May, Dr. Dunin-Bell, a part-time Whistler resident since the
mid 1990s, who, when not enjoying the Coast Mountains, lives half the year in
Oakville, Ontario, was the first Canadian physician to work at the clinic.
experience, she said, presented an avalanche of challenges.
their stay, Dr. Dunin-Bell and her colleague, Dr. Suzanne Boyle, an
anaesthesiologist from Edinburgh, Scotland, moved their sleeping tents four
times, while the kitchen walls repeatedly collapsed.
were right on the glacier, the mixed ice and rock flowing stream of the Khumbu
Icefall,” Dr. Dunin-Bell said. “At night, we heard avalanches or rockfall every
hour. I learned to sleep through it. The ground underneath really crackles and
pops, everything is constantly shifting and expanding. In the daytime, if I heard
the start of an avalanche, I stopped sticking my head out to look.”
latrine consisted of blue barrels lined with plastic bags for solid waste only,
since the charge for barrel removal is based on weight.
Dr. Dunin-Bell returned to Canada with bronchitis and pneumonia.
were constantly dealing with weather and discomfort,” she said. “The month of
April was, in a word, cold. We lived in down jackets practically the whole
time. It was so much physically tougher than I would have thought.”
newcomer to challenges, in 2003, after two decades as a general surgeon at
Mississauga’s Credit Valley Hospital, Dr. Dunin-Bell left to teach at McMaster
University and to work with Canadian Global Air Ambulance, flying international
air evacuations of critically ill.