Tom Lee Books
“Melt My Wings” is a novel about trekking in Nepal, its romance and potentially life-threatening disasters. In Classical Mythology Ikaros (or Icarus) was a youth who attempted to escape from Crete with wings of wax and feathers, but he flew so high that his wings melted from the heat of the sun and he plunged to his death in the Aegean Sea. Jim Icarus, a handsome 22-year-old college graduate, joins his Dad, Alex for a trek into the Khumbu region south of Mount Everest in Nepal. He first shows his courage and bravery while fighting the fire and rescuing a youth from a burning helicopter. That earns him the respect of all of his trekking companions, but particularly Dr. Charley Brown, a pretty young emergency department physician. Charley is nine years older than Jim, divorced, but is now ready to find the right man, marry and still continue to hike in the summertime and ski in the winter. She thinks Jim is the one.
The helicopter that crashed and burned was supposed to have been the one that transported trek leader, Dr. Bill Wright and the fifteen members of the "Wright" party to Lukla, the jumping off destination for treks into the Khumbu. With no other flights possible that day, Mountain Travel sponsors a cocktail party and dinner at the Malla Hotel in Kathmandu. Jim and Charley drink too much wine and Jim crashes in Charley’s room much to her delight.
The following day while awaiting their flight to Lukla, a monk appears and places an intricate design on the nose of an awaiting helicopter using crushed flower petals for the colored pastes and flower petals, a pink and orange flower lei and fruit. Next Nepalese men sacrifice a goat using a Ghurka knife and drag the bloody carcass around the decorated helicopter three times. That “blessed” helicopter takes Jim and the rest of the "Wright" party to Lukla and the trek begins, camping in tents, eating "mystery meats," passing yak trains, walking over good and not so good swaying swinging bridges, to visiting Namche Bazaar and the Tengboche Monastery. They see Mount Everest clearly with contrails that look like smoke rings.
Alex has some symptoms of high-altitude mountain sickness as the trek reaches Dingboche, but they abate and he doesn’t tell anyone. However, during the night Alex develops high-altitude cerebral edema, HACE, which is a form of coma. Jim's persistence in seeking help arouses the whole camp and several members head to Pheriche to the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic for oxygen and to call for a rescue helicopter. His Dad’s friend, Dr. Robb Anderson and Charley begin resuscitation. By luck a working group who has spent the summer and fall cleaning-up trash from the base camp of Mount Everest is camped a few hundred yards from Jim's trekking party when his Dad succumbs to HACE. Their Gamow hyperbaric bag and an injection of steroids are successful in resuscitating his Dad out of coma, but after a while Alex unfortunately slips back into coma. Good fortune smiles again when a French physician from the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic arrives with her Jacque Cousteau designed hyperbaric chamber that will pressure the comatose victim down to sea level. An injection of Niphedapine under Alex's tongue and a dive in the Cousteau bag brings Alex out of his coma once again. Despite an oxygen mask and transport to 1000 m lower altitude, Alex remains in desperate condition. A daring after dark helicopter rescue leaves Jim on the ground wondering about his Dad's fate
Jim and Robb hurry down the mountain only to have to wait for days in Lukla for a flight back to Kathmandu. Jim tries to buy his way back to Kathmandu on an earlier flight from a beautiful New Zealand student. She comes with a price tag of $300 and a promise to share a hotel room until she can book another flight to New Zealand; Jim reluctantly declines. Meanwhile, the rest of the “Wright” trekking party marches up the trail and encounters a devastating windstorm that drives them into stone structures for protection. Eventually, five members of the "Wright” party summit 18,800+ foot, Kala Patthar, but not without another high altitude mountain sickness casualty to the oldest member of the party, 76-year-old Ed. He summitted Kala Patthar even though it was on his hands and knees with nearly fatal shortness-of-breath.
Alex recovers unbeknownst to Jim. He spent the first day reading all of the New Testament from the Gideon’s Bible in the hotel room. The following day he went sightseeing around Kathmandu going to the palace where the girl-goddess, the Kumari Devi, or virgin, as the royal Living Goddess was called, resides in splendor and then to the "Monkey Temple," Swayambhunath with its 365 steps to the stupa on top. The next day he hiked out to the University that he found in disarray from the earlier student-security riots. On his way back he stumbles on a five star hotel and restaurant where he plans to eat a celebratory meal when Jim and Robb return.
Alex receives a blessing by a monk who is not seen by anyone else in the hotel lobby and disappears just as Alex receives a phone call from Jim that he and Robb have made it to the airport in Kathmandu. Alex is a little bit confused, but he meets Jim and Robb in the hotel lobby and after securing rooms for them, they head out to "Mike's" for lunch and a leisurely afternoon. Alex purchases a Ghurka knife from a street vendor who lowers its price from $25 to ten dollars.
Meanwhile, Charley transports old Ed on the rescue helicopter in the Cousteau bag. Fortuitously, she runs into the New Zealand student who is staying at the hotel where Jim, Alex and Robb have dined. The women come close, but never quite hook-up with Jim. Charley wants to tell Jim about her missed period and the outcome of ol’ Ed. That same night Jim recounts his Dad’s life-threatening event and Alex Icarus admits that such a disaster would “Melt My Wings.”