On Wednesday last week, an Israeli hiker began a popular three-day trek in India in the Himalayan mountains known as the Brighu Lake Trek. The trek is located close to the village of Manali where Chabad Rabbi and United Hatzalah volunteer EMT Menachem Bakush lives with his family. Towards the top of the mountain, at an altitude of 5,200 meters, the young Israeli hiker fainted. According to locals in the area, she was unable to move at all.
Bakush is known throughout the region as being a first response EMT and received a call from some of the local residents alerting him to the medical emergency. “I got a call on Wednesday about the girl who was hiking and fainted. The locals in the area told me that she was unable to move or walk and that she needed medical assistance urgently. I grabbed my gear and headed over to the mountain trek. I was met by a local guide who carried my bag as we ran up the hill.”
Bakush and his guide did a trek that normally takes a full day in a number of hours. He relayed the story of the first part of the dramatic rescue.
“When I arrived at the location where the woman had fainted, I saw that she was still unable to move. I suspected she might have altitude sickness and she was showing signs of having a High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or Cerebral Edema (HACE), both of which can be fatal conditions. I gave her oxygen and glucogel to help alleviate the effects of the altitude and then, together with the guide, we were able to bring her down the mountain. At first, we carried her on a makeshift stretcher but then we found a horse and placed her on it. When we got to the bottom of the mountain, we took her in a car to the nearest medical center for checkups.”
Bakush then returned home to Manali and his family. On Friday night, he got a call from the clinic alerting him that the woman he brought in was not doing well and that she needed to be flown to a hospital immediately for further treatment. Bakush said goodbye to his family and rushed to the clinic and began making preparations. He organized a flight for the next morning and accompanied the woman to a hospital in New Delhi. Over the course of the flight, he had the woman hooked up to a health monitor so that he could monitor her vital signs continuously.
“The flight was tense. It was a small plane and we had to rush so that she could get the treatment she needed. When we arrived in New Delhi I made sure that she was checked into the hospital and that she was being treated. I also made sure that the embassy was in contact with her family back in Israel. Then I got on a bus and took the 12-hour ride back home to Manali. I arrived well after Shabbat ended. The whole ordeal from start to finish took four days and showed me once again how important it is to have proper health insurance while traveling. Without help from her insurance company, the entire situation would have ended differently.”
In addition to being a Chabad shaliach, Bakush responds to medical emergencies all over the region. Over the past two months, he saved an Israeli hiker who fell down a mountain and a local Indian man who drowned in a pool. Even though helping others comes at great cost to Bakush in terms of time and effort, he is happy to do it. “Emergencies happen here all the time. I am glad that I can provide assistance to those in the area who need it.”
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