Outcomes Offered

■ Knowing that it isn't the event but the way we handle the event

■ Accepting that thoughts can determine feelings

■ Discovering that attitude can determine outcome

■ Maintaining a sense of humor

■ Possessing skills to manage trauma

I have a great love of mountains and high-mountain trekking. Whenever I can, I visit places like the Himalayas. Because I love mountains so much I have also read a lot about them and am fascinated by stories of climbers who pushed themselves beyond what you might think humans are capable of experiencing. Of the many stories of climbers who have battled against seemingly intolerable odds, there is one that touches me very deeply and reminds me very clearly of some of those things that help people get through the really tough times in life.

Dr. Beck Weathers was a specialist, a pathologist, who fulfilled a lifelong dream of climbing to the summit ofMt. Everest on May 10, 1996. Unfortunately, it was a tragic day in the history ofEver-est. A blizzard swept down on the mountain and within a few days fifteen people had died. Beck was thought to be one of them—in fact, about four times he was thought to be one of them.

Trying to get down, Beck, with a few other climbers, got lost; their oxygen—which is necessary to survive at those altitudes—had run out, they couldn't see in the storm and the darkness, they had no tents or sleeping bags, and they didn't know which way to go. When he took off a glove to warm his hand inside his jacket, the glove blew away, his hand snap-froze, he couldn't do up his jacket, and his whole body started to freeze in the howling wind. He passed out. Other climbers who came to the rescue of those in trouble couldn't find him and doubted there was any way that he could have survived the night on the mountain without a sleeping bag and tent. This was the first time he was written off as dead.

The next morning rescuers found Beck, partly buried in the snow. A doctor, among the rescuers, scraped ice off Beck's face to recognize him, checked his vital signs for life, and pronounced that he was so near death that he was beyond help. For a second time he was written off.

That afternoon, miraculously, Beck regained consciousness, later saying that he had a mental vision of his family, of the people he loved, and that it inspired him to get going. With one arm frozen and only able to see a short distance in front of him, he staggered across the mountain face, again miraculously, into Camp IV. He was given oxygen and hot water bottles, and wrapped in two sleeping bags in a tent. For a third time, nobody expected him to survive through the night. Even if he did, he wouldn't have the strength to face all the hazards of getting down the mountain.

In the tent by himself, Beck's hands were too frozen to allow him to open a water bottle and have a drink. The blizzard blew the tent flaps open and tore the sleeping bags from his body. His arms were swollen and his wristwatch was cutting off the blood flow to his hand. Being a doctor, he knew that meant he could lose his hand—so he tried to chew through the watchband. He screamed, helplessly, for the exhausted rescuers couldn't hear him over the howling blizzard.

In the morning when Beck stood and even began to walk his rescuers could hardly believe it, but still no one thought he would survive. They were 26,000 feet up the highest mountain in the world. There was a long, tortuous descent ahead—tough for even the fittest.

On the rescue was a famous mountaineer and mountain photographer, David Breashears, who personally helped Beck. Beck's arms were frozen as stiff as poles, he had limited sight and strength, and his face was so frostbitten that he would later have to have his nose amputated, along with his hands. Being a doctor he must have known this, but he remained hopeful, saying at one point, "I'm gonna lose my hands, but I might just see my wife and kids again."

David Breashears later wrote a book entitled High Exposure, in which he said he kept expecting Beck to complain—but he never did. In fact, even after having been written off for dead so many times, knowing that he could lose his arms and never be able to work as a doctor again, Beck Weathers was cracking jokes.

Climbing Mt. Everest is a costly exercise—probably about the same as buying a small apartment or a couple of cars. As David virtually carried Beck down the mountain on his own back, Beck laughed that before leaving home he'd said to his wife, "This is costing me an arm and a leg," and then, knowing that he would lose his arms, added, "but I guess I bargained them down."

What interests me is just how people facing such tough times and difficult situations survive and are able to get on with their lives. I find Dr. Beck Weathers an inspiration and I guess this is part of the reason that I love reading about mountains and the adventures ofmountaineers, particularly what they do when faced with such difficult times.

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