Singaporean woman who died of altitude sickness in Nepal an avid runner, say friends

Singaporean Amy Wong died of altitude sickness on her way up to Mount Everest's base camp on May 26, 2017.
Singaporean Amy Wong died of altitude sickness on her way up to Mount Everest's base camp on May 26, 2017.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/DENNIS QUEK

SINGAPORE - Quantity surveyor Amy Wong Kum Ling, 46, who died of altitude sickness on Friday (May 26) on her way to Mount Everest's base camp, was an avid trail runner who loved the outdoors.

She had arrived just one day earlier with friends at Lobuche, a small Nepalese village near Mount Everest at an altitude of about 4,940m. She was there to take part in the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon - billed as the world's highest marathon - which starts Monday (May 29) from the base camp at an altitude of 5,364m.

According to the Solukhumbu District Police Office, she died in her hotel room on Friday morning.

Her friend Khoo Zhihao, 34, said that Ms Wong had been an active member of the ultra-running community. Ultra-runs typically refer to runs that are longer than 50km.

"She was a wonderful lady - very healthy and very strong in terms of fitness," said Mr Khoo, an athletic coach. He said that her death came as a shock as she had previously made a successful trip to the base camp in 2012, and had no health issues or medical conditions that he knew of. "Condition-wise, she would have been capable of taking on extreme things."

Another friend, Mr Ng Seow Kong, 56, who is the chief executive of an events management company, said that Ms Wong had completed several 100km marathons in various locations, including Hong Kong and Montreal, Canada. "She often travelled to take part in sporting events and has the passion for running. She was always up for new adventures in new places," he said.

Her friend Dennis Quek, who on Saturday posted about her death on Facebook, wrote: "While saddened, I am consoled by the fact that she left us peacefully, and doing what she loves most. The mountains called, and she went. Rest in peace my friend."

Ms Wong's older brother told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that she had arrived in Nepal two weeks ago. "She relished the freedom of running freely, close to nature," the 49-year-old told Wanbao.

The family is making preparations for Ms Wong's body to be flown to Singapore, and it is expected to arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Photographer Stefen Chow, 37, is an experienced mountaineer who scaled the summit of the 8,848m Mount Everest in 2005 and last year completed a seven-day trek in the Himalayas with his wife and then three-year-old daughter in tow.

 
 

He said that altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is something that even seasoned climbers can succumb to.

"For very healthy and fit people, it is generally feasible for someone to reach the base camp.

However, in my past expeditions and experience, I had met people who had worrying difficulties even at 4,000m. AMS is very dangerous if you do not heed the symptoms and do not medicate or descend promptly."

Dr David Teo, a medical director at International SOS, a global medical-assistance company, said a lack of physical fitness, dehydration and ascending too quickly can increase the risk. "Travellers to high altitude often avoid drinking due to (the) cold and dry environment. They could easily become dehydrated. When signs and symptoms of altitude sickness (such as nausea or giddiness) set in, it is important to rest and stop ascending. If signs and symptoms worsen, start descending."