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Somerset man plucked from death's door on Himalayan mountain

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: November 10, 2012

  • NEPAL RESCUE: Mike Gillingham at his home in Somerton after surviving a bout of E.coli on a remote Nepalese mountainside

  • Mr Gillingham on a previous trip to Nepal

  • Mr Gillingham on a previous trip to Nepal

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A Somerton builder who was close to death on the side of a Himalayan mountain has spoken about his ordeal.

Mike Gillingham, 63, was on his seventh trek in one of the most remote parts of Nepal when he was suddenly struck down with E.coli.

He collapsed in camp and a doctor on the trek told his guide if they did not get him out of there quickly he would certainly die.

Mr Gillingham said: “I think I saw the gates of heaven.

“I was really ebbing away.”

The Nepal Trust group had already trekked for 12 days and were close to the border with Tibet.

Rotarian Mr Gillingham was feeling sick at Simikot, and sent a text message to his ex-wife Sheila to let her know, but he continued on a seven-hour trek to Torpa, at around 10,000 feet above sea level.

He said: “How I made it I don’t know.

“When I reached the camp I just collapsed.

“I caught E.coli bug in the bowel and every bit of moisture was going straight through me. It was horrible.

“There was no easy way to get me out of there and I was dying so quickly.

“The doctor and dentist who were also on our trek said to our guide Kumar, ‘How are you going to get him out of here?’”

The only way Mr Gillingham could be evacuated was by helicopter and he said it was the sound of his rescue that inspired him to keep fighting.

He said: “If it wasn’t for the sound of the helicopter landing which brought me back I think I would have died.

“I could see purple stripes coming towards me and I think I could just make out a cloud.

“Our guide Kumar was cradling me, calling out, ‘Mike sir, Mike sir’.

“He had carried me up to where the helicopter landed. It had just a couple of metres to land on. I was ebbing away and I knew I was dying. I felt at peace.”

The rescue helicopter rushed him to hospital in the country’s capital, Kathmandu.

The helicopter rescue cost £8,000 and Mr Gillingham’s five-day stay in hospital cost £4,000, but luckily this was covered by his travel insurance.

The doctors told him the E.coli was likely caused by eating uncooked green vegetables.

Mr Gillingham has been going out to the region every other year to help build four health posts for the remote communities, but he said after this trip he has decided to call it a day.

He lost two stone in weight but said in the two weeks since he has been home he has been getting stronger every day.

His two sons, George, 29, and Russell, 27, are glad to have him home but have asked him not to do it again.

Mr Gillingham added: “I have always loved people but I think I love them even more now. When I thought I was dying I felt at peace. I just feel so grateful to be alive.”

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