Trapped on Everest? I'm on my mobile

Stephen Goodwin
Friday 26 April 1996 23:02

A Royal Navy diver is recovering in a Nepal hospital after being rescued from the slopes of Mount Everest courtesy of that mixed blessing of modern life - the mobile 'phone.

Eamon Fullen, 28, was taking part in a commercial expedition when he became crippled with chest pains above the Khumbu ice fall, a chaos of shifting ice cliffs and crevasses at an early stage of the climb.

Fortunately for leading seaman Fullen, one of his companions on the expedition, Mike Trueman, was equipped with a solar-powered telephone. Mr Trueman, 43, a corporate communications manager working in Hong Kong, adopted the standard procedure for males in distress - call the wife.

Helen Trueman, 32, took the satellite call 2,000 miles away in Hong Kong and from then on acted as the vital intermediary between the Nepalese Army, who organised a helicopter, Everest base camp and the Kathmandu hospital by 'phone, fax and Internet.

Recalling the drama of last weekend: "The phone rang and Mike was very serious saying they suspected that the climber had had a heart attack and need urgent evacuation. They could not contact any local numbers, so could I organise a helicopter evacuation and get back to them within two hours because the sun was going down and the power for the phone would go.

"As ever, yes darling, anything you say."

Temperatures were down to minus 15 degrees centigrade on the mountainside. As Eamon Fullen was brought down through the ice fall, where crevasses are spanned by light-weight ladders, Mrs Trueman went into action.

A former Army doctor, now the British forces community paediatrician in Hong Kong, and a regular vistor to Kathmandu, she had almost unrivalled contacts.

Mrs Trueman said: "A normal helicopter rescue takes 48 hours because you have to pay pilots up front. The climbing team was very worried about Eamon when Mike said: 'My wife will sort it out.' I don't expect anyone believed him."

Her first call was to the British Gurkhas' Nepal headquarters, where the duty officer was known to her and also the transport officer. He liaised with the Nepalese Army, and at 7.40 next morning Mr Fullen was airlifted from base camp where a doctor from a New Zealand expedition had administered first aid.

The only helicopter available was a small one which could hover for just 15 minutes at high altitude with room only for a patient and an oxygen cylinder.

Leading seaman Fullen, known as "Ginge", was flown to Kathmandu Hospital where he is now in a stable condition and out of intensive care.

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