November 28, 2012
Ever wonder what IMG Guides do, to stay out of trouble, when we’re not walking uphill with a heavy pack?
I took a volunteer post working in the Emergency Department at the Jigme Dorje Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, Bhutan. As an American ER doc, my role is to help the Bhutanese ER doctors develop their skills. A lot of what I’ve seen here is similar to what we see in the States . . . and then there are the farmers attacked by wild boars, or gored by sacred cows, and the occasional patient presenting with an obscure disease that we just don’t see in the US. The doctors are great to work with, they’re well trained, and very resourceful. I’m grateful that English is the academic language here, because my grasp of Dzongkha is still a bit limited.
Of course, it’s not all medicine. I’ve been out bouldering at the local crag (just a short walk from the hospital), and trekking in the hills with other foreign docs posted here. They were delighted to hear that I also work as a mountain guide, so I lured them away from the hospital, and they’ve followed me blindly as we wander the Bhutanese mountainsides. It’s really just more recon for the IMG Bhutan trek I’ll be leading next October.
Recently, I was honored to meet the Queen Mother, and then have an elegant luncheon with the Queen Grandmother, and family, at her palace. Both were surprise invitations! I only brought scrubs, and my beat up climbing clothes. Fortunately, one of my Bhutanese coworkers was able to lend me a kira, the appropriate clothing for the event. Getting the outfit on just right turned out to be more difficult than putting on puffy pants over crampons in a stiff breeze, so I enlisted the aid of a passerby. It takes a village . . . to ‘formally’ dress a mountain guide.
But really, the kindness of strangers here has been remarkable. Bhutan has definitely been keeping me out of trouble. Plenty to do, plenty more to see, never enough time! I’m really excited to be coming back next fall to spend more time here, and introduce a crew of trekkers to the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”.