On May 23, 2022, at 3 pm, 57-year-old Suzanne Jesus, a teacher by profession from Silvassa in Dadra & Nagar Haveli, made it to the Everest Base Camp (EBC) after trekking for 20 days. At first, she cried with joy and then soaked in celebration.
One would say, what makes her trek so extraordinary when people older than her have made it to EBC with equal ease? Suzanne probably could be the first woman to have pulled off the gruelling trek (approximately 130-kms full circuit) with the help of an implanted pacemaker inside her body.
A pacemaker is a small device that's placed (implanted) in the chest to help control the heartbeat. It's used to prevent the heart from beating too slowly. Implanting a pacemaker in the chest requires a surgical procedure.
She is still trying to find out whether she is the first woman to reach EBC on a pacemaker and get her epic journey recognised and certified.
In 2002, at the age of 38, she was diagnosed with Sick Heart Syndrome and implanted with the pacemaker. She told her cardiologist that she was the type of person who would climb Mount Everest if she had the money. Being an active sportsperson since early childhood, she was resigned to her fate.
In 2016, her pacemaker battery went totally down after which it was replaced. From the fourth day after her operation and discharge from the hospital, she was on her own and driving to school. In the same year, she was down with dengue and for months, could hardly consume food. She weakened terribly.
After the change of pacemaker battery, she began questioning herself seriously. "God has given me a second chance to live, so why not live fully,” she said to herself. She always loved travelling to see new places.
In 2017, she began travelling solo in her favourite yellow car. Both, she and her car are famous on Facebook. She covered the entire country including South, Northeast, North India, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, travelling twice a year during vacations. Driving on mountain roads became her passion. Then, in 2019, she completed a solo car tour of Bhutan.
“What next?“ she thought. It had to be Nepal. For her, Nepal was not just a destination, but an emotion. She started doing her studies. But the lockdown cancelled her plans. Suzanne knew the best way to see Nepal would be to trek to Everest Base Camp.
She longed to see Everest with her own eyes, so she decided to do the trek. In pursuance of her dream, for over two years, she practiced walking, even carrying a loaded backpack for hours.
On May 7, 2022, the last working day before summer vacation, she wound up from school at about 6 pm, went home, freshened up and started her journey to Nepal at 6.45 pm. Driving day and night, she reached Nepal through Sonauli on May 10, 2022.
After getting her car permit done, she drove to Kathmandu via Hetauda. It was election time in Nepal. Leaving her car at Hotel Ramanam, Kathmandu, she took a helicopter flight to Lukla on May 12.
She started the EBC trek on May 13, 2022, with a helper. She walked the first three days really slow taking night halts at villages between camps. Then at Namche Bazaar, she had an acclimatization day. Her legs never complained -- neither did her lungs or heart. She was careful and monitored her health well.
But, soon after, the porter accompanying her ran away with her camera. It did not deter her and she continued trekking. Thereafter she got helpers on and off. At other times, she carried her 13 kgs backpack and continued on her journey.
On May 23, 2022, she set out from Gorekshep at 9 am and reached EBC at 3 pm and completed her dream. At first, she cried with joy, then soaked in celebration.
She said, "Each day, I covered some stretches in 8 to 12 hours, which others just took 3 to 4. But I enjoyed each moment of the trek.”
For four days from Thukla to Gorekshep and back to Periche she had to trek in snowfall and rain. She saw the mountains in all their glory and brought back photographs and plenty of memories of flowers, birds and animals she saw on the way.
Suzanne took nine days to climb to Gorekshep, one day at EBC and eight days to trek back down. On May 31, 2022, she returned to Lukla. She found the trekking not so difficult, but the distances she covered were long.
Her mother, three sisters and their families and her friends have come to accept her way of life and encourage her. She also gets moral support from her nieces and nephews. Her colleagues and officers admire her determination and zeal to live life to the fullest.
Suzanne said she went to Nepal as careful and slow as a tortoise, but returned feeling like a cheetah.
What next? She’s already received invitations to do mount Kilimanjaro and other places. But her heart longs to return to Nepal.