Advancing The Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog

Archive for April, 2012

Physical Challenges On Everest

Posted on April 30th, 2012 by Admin

Dispatch from the Field (4-30-12)

Posted on April 30th, 2012 by Admin

From Joel Streed, Mayo Clinic News Network

Nobody ever expected this expedition to be easy.  Conducting medical research near the top of the worlds highest point certainly creates challenges.  Mother nature is one of those obstacles that the team is having to overcome.  The extreme temperatures are playing games with both equipment and the researchers.  Much of the equipment, including our computers, is run off battery.  Battery life is greatly diminished in the cold.  And the frigid nighttime temps can play havoc on other research material that should ideally be stored in controlled conditions, something that is a little hard to do when you're working in tents.

But team members, including technology lead Dr. Amine Issa, are working hard to find solutions that are keeping the gathering of data on track. We were able to get two of Dr. Issa's brief comments out from base camp today -- this is raw footage due to temporary technical limitations.


A Poor Man's Oscar Speech

Posted on April 29th, 2012 by Admin

From Bryan Taylor, Ph.D.

So, here we are. Mount Everest base camp, 17,500 feet above sea level, blood oxygen saturation level of 70-80% (it's 95-100% at sea level), plus an elevated 
heart rate. Sleeping, poorly, in a tent at sub-zero temperatures on a
glacier that has shifted approximately 30 feet in the last month! Sounds like 
fun, huh? Well, actually, to us it is. The scenery is quite spectacular with rock falls and avalanches in the mountains around us (don't worry, we 
are all safe). Each morning the rising sun illuminates the staggering peaks 
around us. Breathtaking. We had an excellent first experimental testing day 
and looking forward to an even better one tomorrow. Somewhat miraculously all of our equipment arrived and we have set up a pretty cool environmental 

So far, so good. 
But as I sit here and reflect on our journey so far, I can't help but think 
of all the people back in the US (and the UK) without whom we would not be 
here. While we have been interviewed, filmed and photographed, there are a 
number of people who deserve so much credit for the current and, hopefully,
 continued success of this research expedition. So, here goes my poor man's
Oscar speech. First, enormous thanks must go to our lab mates back at the Clinic, in particular Andy Miller, Rob Wentz, Heidi Johng and Kathy
O'Malley. Their hard work and dedication to this project has been 
invaluable. For me personally, I have to thank Beth Cloud and Kristen Greek 
(physical therapists at Mayo) who "fixed my broken calf"; approximately 7 weeks ago a tear in my left calf had me in a walking boot and on crutches. 
Without their help I would not be here right now.

Obviously, our friends 
and family are continuously in our minds. Knowing that they love and care 
for us truly helps us get through the physical struggles of each day. For 
me, the support of my parents and sister back in Scotland is a continual 
source of strength. And my girlfriend, Michelle -- her unwavering support and 
dedication to me throughout this whole process is one of the main reasons I 
am here writing this blog right now. 
So thank you. Thank you all. Our current and future success is in great part due to all of you.

Dispatch from the Field (4-29-12)

Posted on April 29th, 2012 by Admin

Climber Cory Richards, who is resting safely in hospital, wanted us to clarify that his illness was not altitude sickness, but a diagnosis is still forthcoming. Updates on his situation will come first on the National Geographic site. 

After yesterday's disappointing news about Cory's evacuation, the team turned its focus to the job at hand, the testing that we came here to complete.

But as you might expect at extreme altitude and in some very unforgiving weather conditions, the equipment wasn't necessarily ready to cooperate.  But the research team wasn't about to let that slow them down too much.

In the photo below, Alex Kasak prepares to draw blood from Dr. Bruce Johnson.

It's an agressive schedule to try to run all the Mayo staff as well as the folks from The North Face and National Geographic through the paces, but it's going well.  And hopefully, with a little inginuity, we'll be able to get all the equipment working.

Entire team arrives; Climber Cory Richards evacuated

Posted on April 28th, 2012 by Admin

Update from multiple sources:  The rest of the Mayo research team and other trekkers in their group arrived at base camp today, so now all six Mayo expedition members are together again.  Shortly after their arrival, North Face/National Geographic climber/photographer Cory Richards was evacuated due to altitude sickness. Details on that are available on the NatGeo blog.

Dr. Bruce Johnson and Team begins testing

Posted on April 28th, 2012 by Admin

Our first message from research team leader, Mayo investigator Bruce Johnson, Ph.D. 

All good, have the lab set up and looks really good.  Last night my O2 sats (saturation) were 74, which makes my PaO2 about in the 40's... much lower than you would ever allow a patient to get.  We are sleeping on a glacier very near the icefalls and thus you can hear the ice cracking during the night and avalanches around us with the occasional spray into base camp.   Day temps are in the 40's or a little higher and night temps close to 5 or 10 above. Everything freezes at night and usually there is a little snow in the late afternoon with sunny still mornings.  We are now linked with the Montana State crew and will add one or two of them to our study.   Our goal will be daily testing now and amazingly our cylinders made it up on the back of a porter even though it was a struggle getting them through customs and we left before they did. The porters got them up here in 3 days (large gas cylinders with our diffusion mix in them). The team seems pretty healthy and we will be doing some side one-hour treks for The North Face to test some of their prototype equipment to fill in any gaps.  However we estimate that the testing will take 6-7 hours a day, which does not include set up, analysis, and data storage.  The athletes are all gone at the present time, acclimatizing to higher camps, but will be back to go through testing 2 times and get instrumented hopefully for their summit attempt.

Dispatch from the Field 4-28-12

Posted on April 28th, 2012 by Admin

From Joel Streed, Mayo Clinic News Network

After more than a week of trekking, the Mayo Clinic team arrived at its destination of the Mount Everest base camp.  The arrival was a little tempered in that the team had decided to split into two groups prior to making the final push on to base camp.  With lingering illness, it was decided that the rest of the group would follow on Saturday.

For the group that did arrive early, Saturday was a day to get things set up.  Space was cleared and leveled on the glacier for the research tents and then the equipment was unpacked and put in order.

The previous night was somewhat un-restful for the group as they got accustomed to the noises of basecamp, such as rock falls and avalanches… none of which were of any threat, but still it took some time to get used to it.  Something else that took getting used to was the change in temperatures. While we had experienced chilly weather previously, things were taken to new heights, or rather new lows and some snow.  Everyone was bundled up with the sleeping bags pulled up tight for the night.  Anything liquid not tucked into the sleeping bag was frozen the next morning!

Tomorrow the routine begins as we begin our medical testing.

Dispatch from the Field 4-27-28 (a little late due to no connectivity)

Posted on April 28th, 2012 by Admin

The day started with some tough decisions, a few members of the group have been struggling with symptoms of altitude sickness… things like nausea, fatigue, as well as GI problems... enough to consider sending the worst down to a lower altitude, staying an extra day at Pheriche, or splitting the group with the healthiest heading on to Lobuche.  As it turned out, all members felt well enough to hit the trail.  Partially at play was a relatively short day, with just over a thousand meters of climbing and even a few stretches of flat walking.

Click here to watch a short video clip of the trek.

But there were also back and forth changes in the weather.  We started off with relatively warm and sunny conditions, but as we climbed the winds picked up while the temperatures grew chillier.  You throw on another layer and trudge onward.  After awhile you hit another valley and the sun reappears and the warmth returns and you find yourself shedding layers to avoid sweating too much knowing that it’s probably going to cool down again over the next hill and the thing you don’t want to do is be sweaty and cold!  What really pushes us on is knowing that our goal, base camp is just a day beyond today’s stop, Lobuche.

Settling in at Base Camp – first photo

Posted on April 28th, 2012 by Admin

From Joel Streed, Mayo Clinic News Network

[This was Joel's quick initial message. His formal dispatches will follow.]

The team is settling into base camp. Half the team arrived last night and we are awaiting the other half any time. Last night was a little “unrestful.” Had to get used to the sounds of rockfalls and avalanches. Nothing to worry about but still a little unsettling! Also getting used to the cold…lots of clothes and sleeping bag pulled up tight last night. Tomorrow we hope to start testing. I have video of the trek from Pheriche to Laboche..trying to upload and watching the progress bar creep across the screen.... here's a post from Nat Geo about the avalanche.

Avalanches on Everest: Everyone is safe

Posted on April 27th, 2012 by Admin

Reports today from the mountain relate some harrowing moments due to avalanches at the top of the Khumbu Ice Fall. Updates from our North Face partners indicate that all climbers and others on Everest have been located and are safe. A Sherpa who served as a cook for one contingent fell into a crevasse. He was rescued and flown out by helicopter. He has been taken to Kathmandu and is expected to fully recover.

For a first hand report, see the blog post by a Montana State University student on The North Face website.