Book Excerpt

“What’s going on?” I asked Tom.

“That Sherpa woman is in trouble.”


“That’s the one. I saw her for a moment. Horrible. Her eyes were all bugged out. Cal tried a shot of dexamethazone, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Dexamethazone was the drug of last resort in such a situation. It was an anti-inflammatory steroid that in certain situations was a lifesaver. That it wasn’t working was very bad news.

I went into the clinic. Calvin was still arguing with Harlan, who was making no attempt to explain himself. Laki lay nearby and looked dreadful. To see a snapshot of someone suffering from HACE with edema, you cannot imagine what you are actually looking at. Such a photo might even look funny, with the eyes bugging out in an unnatural way. What was taking place was that her brain was swelling, and there was nowhere for it to go except through the openings that held her eyes.

Laki was panting like a dog in summer. Her face was gaunt. She looked at me for help and I had none to give. She knew she was in trouble and was very, very frightened. You didn’t have to be a doctor to know that she was at the end of her rope.

Tom joined me. He glanced at her, grimaced, then turned to me. “Calvin said she’s got to be carried down now. The shot doesn’t seem to be helping. Harlan told him that the woman is already dead and he won’t risk the Sherpa in the dark.”

Harlan was right. A few minutes later, Laki stopped breathing. Calvin worked to revive her, but it was hopeless. He finally gave up and stalked off as angry as I’ve ever seen him. The Sherpa who had been nearby, moved away, not wishing to come in contact with her ghost. Someone pulled a blanket over the woman’s face, frozen in horror.

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