Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

July 12. Around 20 teachers of Phobjikha Central School were watching the EURO 2020 final when the Phobjikha’s de-suup coordinator (also a teacher) informed them that four forest officials were in need of de-suups’ assistance. It was1:30am.

On July 11, one of the four forest officials who were travelling towards the Black Mountain on anti-poaching patrol had suffered altitude sickness. They had started their journey on July 6 from Trongsa.

On July 10, the team was at Dungshingtshang, almost 3,800m above sea level.  Team leader, Karma Chorten, said that one of the officers had severe coughing on July 10. On July 11 evening, his health condition worsened.

The team began to descend immediately.

“When we were returning from Dungshingtshang, we had to climb uphill before descending again. That area is around 4,200m high and it was difficult for him,” Karma Chorten said.

One of the officers went to look for a horse from herders. Three yak herders came to help the officers with their gear.

Each forest official was carrying at least 15kg of gear.

While descending at around 6pm on July 11, the team informed their chief about the situation and reinforcement. They travelled for more than 12 hours before they decided to rest and wait for the de-suup team. It was 7am on July 12.

From Phobjikha, nine de-suups and a guide had left at around 3:30am on July 12. Eight of the nine in the team were teachers of Phobjikha Central School.

“Some had to stay behind because we had exams in the school,” said Phobjikha Central School’s principal, Kuenga Tenzin, who was in the team.

After six hours, the team met the forest officers, at around 9:30am.

“We gave glucose to the officer who was sick. After one hour descend on a stretcher he got a little better,” Kuenga Tenzin said. “We were all very tired. We had to walk uphill for at least three hours.”

In Phobjikha, co-ordinator Gyem Tshering had formed the second team with 15 de-suups. Majority of the de-suups were teachers from the central school. With the team also came Phobjikha tshogpa and doctor from the BHU.

“Our mission was to rescue the sick officer but I was also worried about our teammates,” Gyem Tshering said.

The second team met the first team at around 3:30pm on July 12.

The descend continued. This time, de-suups from the second team carried the sick.

The first team had their lunch and continued their journey downhill.

Both the teams reached the road point at around 5:30pm.

The forest officer was admitted to the Primary Health Centre and was released on July 13.

“We have heard and seen [de-suups’] works. When we personally experienced them saving our friend, I really felt the importance of de-suung,” Karma Chorten said.

He said that response from de-suups and his chief was very quick which saved a life of an officer on duty.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk