When I almost lost my hand

Travel

For those who were following along at the time, it’s been 5yrs now since I almost lost my right hand!

For those who came in later, here’s what happened. This may be a little graphic so please only continue if such content doesn’t bother you.

I caught an infection in Tanzania that started developing symptoms on my flight to India. But I went straight to a wedding first, which is the main reason I had flown to India that day ☺️

Next morning my hand was very swollen and it hurt very bad – like a semi truck had just run over it. I also started to develop a fever. Went to the doctor who said I needed to be operated on right away.

8hrs later I was on the operating table inside a hospital in Mumbai, under general anesthesia, and the surgeon made an incision in my hand and drained all the pus and then closed it up. That was the easy part. 🤞

We didn’t know what the infection was and my fever raged on. My hand hurt like hell. And every 6-8hrs they had to remove the bandages, stuff a bunch of gauze and cotton deep into the hand cavity and squeeze out the pus like we squeeze out toothpaste. There was no anesthesia involved in this step. It helped me understand pain, my thresholds for pain and offered me a great opportunity to practice integrating into discomfort rather than fearing it. I remember how traumatizing those days were – to feel the pain, to know that more is coming at regular intervals, and the powerlessness around it. Also in an interesting way, I think my family was affected more by it then I was. I was never shrinking or crying or squirming during the procedure. I had mostly resigned to it and was mostly detached from it. Mostly! 😛

4 days later we got the culture results and the right antibiotic started to work. My fever was finally coming down and I could think again. But my hand still was no where close to healed. I could see raw flesh and the deep cavity every time the bandage was taken out. I didn’t think that was ever going to heal. Funny the narratives our brain can tell us 😆 I had to leave my hand raised in a sling to avoid accumulation of fluids. I started doing my tasks and working on my laptop etc with my left hand. I had accepted a future where I didn’t have use of my right hand and had simply moved on. (And you guessed it right, I’m right handed 🤓)

After a month of daily change of bandages and cleaning, I was amazed at how much the body starts to heal. The cavity was closing in, new flesh had formed. And I was also able to finally close my fist again. It then took me 1yr of physical therapy to get my grip back. And now, after 5 yrs all I have left is a scar and memories!

Lesson learned: don’t pluck feathers off dead flamingoes 🦢 😇

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Train to Toruń

Travel

On the train from Poznań to Toruń, random fellow passengers helped me put my bags away, offered me food and a drink which is definitely something spiked with something. And now we are using Google translate to communicate with each other.

I think they are Ukrainian. And we are mixing some Russian with Polish now.

They work in construction. Build bridges. They came from Ukraine to work in Poland.

I gave them chocolates from the U.K. One of them has a girlfriend called Marislova. The chocolates are now a gift for her.

And yes it was Vodka. We are best buds now 😜

I want my Mountain back. Mt Rainier shut down

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Because of the government shut down all National Parks, including Mt. Rainier, are shut down. Due to websites being considered non-essential, they can’t even update the website to let people know what to expect. Turns out, the roads have been blocked, gates have been locked and it’s not possible to drive into the National Park anymore. Putting this out here because I couldn’t find this info anywhere else. So disappointing.

Mount Rainier Shut Down

Mount Rainier Shut Down

Seattle is the sum of the city and its surroundings

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Sunset from Mt Rainier

Seattle is a growing city with a lot to offer with all its wilderness parks, great restaurants and bars and nightlife. However, just 25 miles in any direction, you experience things I always thought you would need a vacation to access. My wife and I have internalized the Seattle lifestyle and incorporated a lot of backcountry and outdoors into our life. We don’t take the car to work. But we do take the car to get out there where people don’t usually go and enjoy nature on a weekly basis. Here’s what Seattle looks like as experienced via half-day and full-day ventures into it’s surroundings:

You can build a snow-cave on an active volcano, two hours from the city.

You can build a snow-cave on an active volcano, two hours from the city.

You can see gorgeous sunsets any time of the year

You can see gorgeous sunsets any time of the year

You can climb a 12,500ft mountain in one day!

You can climb a 12,500ft mountain in one day!

You can go snowboarding after work

You can go snowboarding after work

Walk alongside glaciers

Walk alongside glaciers

Or plunge into a crevasse on the awesome glaciers

Or plunge into a crevasse on the awesome glaciers

Of course, you get the beautiful city views all the time

Of course, you get the beautiful city views all the time

When you start counting the stuff within a 0.5-4 hour radius of the city, coupled with the clean crisp air and beautiful city itself, the bar is set pretty high when you decide to go someplace on a vacation!

Milky Way over Mt. Rainier with climbers making summit attempt

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Growing up in Mumbai, I remember seeing stars above me. I remember vividly that I could see the 30 brightest stars in the Northen Hemisphere as I knew them by name and could find them at night. In the 90s, light pollution came and you couldn’t see anymore. Yet, nothing is more awestriking yet relatively easily accessible than a simple moonless, starlit night. At least for now, you can just get away from man-made settlements by maybe a couple of hour to experience that.

Last week I went with friends over the Sunrise Point in Mt. Rainier. The visibility forecast for it was very good and I was hoping to capture the Milky Way on my camera using a long exposure.

Here are the results. All the light in this picture is coming from the Milky Way and other starlight. There was no moon, and no other man made light leaking through. The dots on the mountain itself are climbers making a summit attempt.


Milky Way over Mt Rainier by Sameer Halai on 500px.com

Climbing Mt. Adams in one day

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It can be done in one day but it’s more comfortable to do it in two. But if you plan on two days then you end up carrying more weight which slows you down and justifies doing it in two days. So it’s a cyclical argument.

Mt Adams Summit

We decided to summit Mt Adams in one day. Conservative estimate was 14hrs round trip to do the 6,800 ft up and down but we ended up taking 17hrs to get back to the trailhead. Really started to drag above 10,000 ft but I successfully managed to keep my Acute Mountain Sickness at bay with the right breathing techniques and rest. Good thing we had excellent weather on our side so we renegotiated our turn around time and pushed through to the summit. However, due to the delay the glissade chutes had re-frozen with hard rough ice. While sliding down the 30° slopes at 9 mph the skin on my lower back got exposed to all the friction and I got some minor burns. But descending 3000 ft in 60 mins by sliding down a mountain is a fun experience and was the delayed gratification that kept us going up in the first place! The only thing we could’ve done better is plan for more sleep before getting started 🙂

Heap of snow creates a higher summit Summit on the way up - looks deceptively close Lots of layer changes during the day At the summit

By planning on doing it in one day, we carried less stuff than we usually would for an overnight climb. Which helps us move fast, which in effect also makes you safer and you need less mitigation. Look at what speed can mean: