Tag Archives: Local News

Telus Storyhive: How a Cochrane Doctor is Saving Lives Overseas

Dr. William Hanlon goes to extremes to bring sustainable healthcare to some of the most remote regions on the planet.

Reaching the South Pole , Cochrane Times, Date: Jan 2010

Reaching the South Pole
Posted By Brad Herron of The Cochrane Times


Reaching the South PoleThree small souls at the pole.

By Brad Herron

On. Jan. 2, a Cochrane doctor joined his childhood heroes like Ernest Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen as explorers of Antarctica.

For 47 days, Bill Hanlon braved temperatures that reached below -50 C and bitter winds to raise awareness for remote-area medicine.

With two other men — including one from China who became the first Chinese man to ski to the pole — Hanlon skied across Antarctica, guided only by a compass, to conquer a life goal and promote Basic Health International, his foundation.

And while he has accomplished many other feats, including climbing Mt. Everest in 2007 while serving as the expedition’s doctor, travelling across the frozen landscape provided unique challenges not seen in any other locale.

On days when the wind picked up, Hanlon said travel became something akin to being a ping pong ball inside a lottery machine; directionless and, at time, nearly lost.

“One day I was navigating where I couldn’t see my skies,” Hanlon said. “It can be nauseating at times, because when you are navigating in a complete white-out like that it is hard to know what’s what.”

While the trip was going to be a physical struggle from the beginning without added challenges, Hanlon received frostbite on his right thumb during the seventh day of the trek, something he now blames on not heating his core to an adequate temperature before leaving camp. Luckily, Hanlon packed along medication for just this reason, medicine he credits for “saving” his thumb. But enough though his thumb was saved, it made daily tasks difficult for the right-handed man and even two weeks later, the blackened thumb is still sensitive to temperature.

Putting pain aside — something each of the man did, as Hanlon said his fellow travelers often received large blisters on their feet — the crew travelled about 26 to 28 kilometres per day, extending their skiing to 42 kilometres one day and staying in camp due to weather another.

In constant sunlight, the men rose each morning at 6 a.m. and were on their skis by 8 a.m., travelling into the evening hours before pitching camp and starting the experience over.

“When your body is wanting to stop or feels that it is time to stop, you have to ignore those vibes and get going. It’s like having a Monday morning experience every day for 50 days,” Hanlon said.

Just maintaining a steady body weight is an arduous task, Hanlon explained. During the trip, Hanlon increased his diet to 6,500 calories per day, taking in as much high-calorie food as his 55-year-old body could handle, even mixing olive oil and large globs of butter into his oatmeal during breakfast.


“One of the few times in life when you can eat large quantities of chocolate, carbohydrates and fat without feeling guilty about it,” Hanlon chuckled, adding he lost four pounds during the trip, but quickly added them back by dining on Chilean steak and drinking a few celebratory beers.

After more than a month-and-a-half of travel, the trio spotted the South Pole — with consists of a ceremonial pole as well as a research station — nine km from where they had planned to camp. Feeling energized, they continued on and finished their journey.

Hanlon said it was a “very strange feeling” arriving at the pole, as members of the research team came outside to meet the men.

“Having travelled, just the three of us for 47 days without any animals or anything, it was very strange. The toughest part was adapting to the change,” he said,

Within two days, and after letting the icicles from this beard thaw, Hanlon and the others were on a plane to the edge of the continent. From there, they set out on a Russian aircraft that brought them back to Chile and civilization.

From his doctor’s office in Cochrane, Hanlon said the trip taught him new lessons in “teamwork and endurance,” lessons he believes he can use in his daily life and potentially pass on to others.

“One of the nice things I really love about expeditions is it really pares down the extra stuff in life and you are down to basics, like survival, food, shelter and a stove to melt snow,” Hanlon said.


Other News: Reaching new heights Cochrane Times, Date: Oct. 29, 2009

Reaching new heights
Cochrane Times,
Date: Oct. 29, 2009




Man Conquers 7 Peaks (Oct. 2009)

8th October 2009, 3:13pm

COCHRANE – Medicine may be his calling, but a local doctor has reached a lifelong goal of climbing the highest mountain on every continent in the world.
Earlier this month Dr. Bill Hanlon, a Cochrane-based family doctor, completed his seven-summit project after 20 years.
Hanlon and three friends reached the 4,884-m summit of the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia on Oct. 16.
It snowed the entire climb, causing poor visibility and freezing up his rope grips. Hanlon rested at the summit for only 20 minutes before climbing back down.
“It was just really nice to get there,” said Hanlon, 55. “A lot of time accidents happen more often on the way down from a mountain, so one couldn’t relax too much.”
This was Hanlon’s second attempt climbing the mountain. Last year he got caught in a mudslide and broke four ribs before turning around.
“I think I learned more from the disappointment of not achieving goals because it does make one more humble,” said Hanlon.
As Hanlon did more international mountaineering he saw the medical needs of the people he met living in remote villages. These people inspired him to start Basic Health International Foundation, a not-for-profit group providing medical

care to those in the isolated mountain communities of Tibet, Mongolia, India, Ethiopia, Peru and Indonesia.

Other News: Hanlon laments completion of Chinese highway, Cochrane Times, Date: 2008-04-23

Hanlon laments completion of Chinese highway

Cochrane Times,

Date: 2008-04-23

Other News: No denying – 2007 was an eventful year Cochrane Times, Cochrane Times, Date: 2008-01-02

No denying – 2007 was an eventful year Cochrane Times

Cochrane Times,

Date: 2008-01-02

Other News: Everest insights enjoyed, Cochrane Times, Date: 2007-10-03

Everest insights enjoyed

Cochrane Times,

Date: 2007-10-03

Other News: Hanlon bringing Everest to Cochranites, Cochrane Times, Date: 2007-09-12

Hanlon bringing Everest to Cochranites

Cochrane Times,

Date: 2007-09-12

Other News: Hanlon reaches the top of the world, Cochrane Times, Date: 2007-05-30

Hanlon reaches the top of the world

Cochrane Times,

Date: 2007-05-30

Other News: Hanlon overcomes grief and tragedy to conquer Everest, Cochrane Times, Date: 2007-06-06

Hanlon overcomes grief and tragedy to conquer Everest

Cochrane Times,

Date: 2007-06-06

Other News: Cochrane doc first in Ladakh, Cochrane Times, Date: 2004-11-17

Cochrane doc first in Ladakh

Cochrane Times,

Date: 2004-11-17

Cochrane doctor asks for support

By Samara Cygman

Are your dresser drawers so clogged, you get a Superman-sized workout just trying to open them, only to have them explode all over the room when you do?

Or, has your child long since graduated up through the ranks of Cochrane Minor Soccer and still has scores of jerseys piling up in his or her room?

If this accurately describes you or one of your children, there is a message for you floating around the community.

Dr. William Hanlon, physician at the Cochrane medical clinic, is planning to embark on yet another medical mission halfway across the world, and wants to bring a bit of Cochrane along with him.

“It’s a way of bridging communities between Cochrane and some of these developing world communities,” he said.

Hanlon is leaving for Ethiopia in October and because mailing is so expensive, he will personally deliver old soccer jerseys to the children in the small communities, with hopes to build their self-confidence and level of physical activity.

“It’s a lot cheaper for me to bring them over there than to mail them,” he said. “There will be a lot of happy Ethiopians. Most of these kids don’t have soccer gear.”

He plans to deliver the jerseys to an orphanage for children whose parents have died from the AIDS virus. “These kids are without parents in an orphanage that doesn’t have a lot of facilities or resources,” he said. “It’s an area that’s really big into soccer, so we can tap into something they really like to do.”

He remembers three years ago when he brought some equipment to Honduras for children in an orphanage “They formed their own team there and seemed to have really improved their soccer skills,” said Han lon. “That was the idea, to give the kids the opportunity to build up their self-esteem and that sense of community and support for each other.”

This is the fourth year Hanlon has brought jerseys or other sports equipment to developing countries and he is astounded at the level of generosity found within the town.

“It’s amazing the response. People have been really great. It’s being used for a good cause and the kids love them over there,” said Hanlon.

Lea Norris, who is volunteering as the communications liaison for Cochrane Minor Soccer, said when Hanlon contacted her with this proposal, she was excited to help out.

“There is over 1,000 kids who play soccer within Cochrane Minor Soccer, so even if we had 20 per cent of them return jerseys, that would be pretty good,” she said, adding she’s been spreading the word around town. “I’m excited for the opportunity to put these jerseys to use.”

Norris explained the Soccer Jersey Donation Program is voluntary, however, and those children who don’t want to part with their jerseys don’t have to.

“My son, he’s five, and he wants to wear his every day to go play in the playground, but there are older kids who I’m sure never wear them again,” she said.

Drop off your clean, unripped jerseys from any year to the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre any day of the week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. up until Sept. 15.If you have any questions, e-mail registrar@932kick.com or call 932-KICK

Doctor reaches Tibetan Plateau

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2003/12/28; December 28, 2003.]

Wednesday 24 December
By Samara Cygman

A Cochrane doctor weathered altitudes of 14,000 feet, exposure to potentially fatal diseases and having to drink yak-butter tea for one month to deliver desperately-needed health care, vitamins and education to locals in one of the most isolated regions in the world – the Tibetan plateau.

Dr. Bill Hanlon, family physician at the Cochrane Medical Clinic, returned home Dec. 6 from his Tibet Child Nutrition and Multi-drug Resistant Tuberculosis project, where he and an American colleague, Dr. Nancy Harris, worked on improving the nutritional and general health status of the children of Tibet by introducing a western approach. They have a huge problem with nutrition, poor sanitation, poor hygiene, a lot of problems with infectious diseases, problems with Ricketts a lack of vitamin D and calcium so people get stunted in growth and a lot of developmental problems. We saw a lot of stunted children, well below their ideal weight and height, many with thin, discoloured hair, thin limbs and protuberant bellies, recounted Hanlon. Those are conditions we don’tt see much here anymore. We helped deliver visual charts with a balanced nutrition message, a hygiene message and ways to recognize symptoms of tuberculosis and treatment options. They even worked with a local musician to create a series of songs about hygiene and the importance of hand-washing and covering your mouth when you cough. By the hundreds, children filed past Hanlon, afflicted with illness ranging from inactive thyroid glands causing goiter in the neck, chronic diarrhea, pneumonia, measles and tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was an area I was interested in. They have a lot of resistant tuberculosis to a lot of medicines we use, said Hanlon, adding a lack and improper use of medicines have resulted in the resistant strains of TB. But it is one of the most treatable infectious diseases in the world. Which is what he found about most of the illness he saw. Not only treatable illness, but entirely preventable illness, ran rampant through the population. One man had a stroke and I was asked to see him. He had a very high blood pressure and it was sad because it was totally preventable, said Hanlon, who worked with the 70-year old every morning to get his blood pressure down. He and his family are very gracious and kind, insisting I have some tea. Yak-butter tea is very much an acquired taste, he laughed, adding it was salty, and likening it to warm soup. Protecting himself against infectious diseases was a bit of a challenge. He had to get shots for rabies, diphtheria, tetanus, Hepatitis A and B and Typhoid.

Hanlon tries to go on this kind of vacation (as he jokingly called it) at least once a year, with all the funds coming out of his own pocket. I’ve always had an interest in this and it helps balance the life we have here with the rest of the world, he said. To help deal with the illness and disease Hanlon and Harris handed out multi-vitamins, nutritious food, medicine and information to almost everyone that came to see them. The impact of small intervention is huge. It can have a huge impact on people’s lives, said Hanlon, adding it was even more important than high-tech machines like MRIs.

His colleague, Harris, who has been living off and on in Tibet for 14 years, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine when she found out 60 per cent of the children she saw had Ricketts. To combat this disease, mainly caused by a vitamin and protein deficiency, Harris had a local plant, Droma, analyzed in the United States and found it worked as a high-protein supplement. It was ground up into flour and distributed amongst the families. The problem with people is they don’t have enough variety in their diets, said Hanlon, adding they mainly eat high carbohydrate, low protein diets that are also low in fruit and vegetables. But depending on the season, their access to fruit and vegetables is sporadic at times. To help the people on a more permanent basis, Hanlon was proud to announce his new federally-registered Basic Health International Foundation. The foundation aims to support public health and primary health care programs in high-need, remote locations and more specifically, high-altitude locations.

I love the mountains, so it s an area of interest, said Hanlon, adding the registered charity took almost a year to set up. This is just another stage in getting ongoing commitment to that area. His intent is to keep the foundation small to incur less administrative costs and accountable and self-sustaining by the population it serves.

A web site will be up and running in the new year. Tibetans are a wonderful group to be with. I very much enjoyed their humour, sense of compassion and spirit of giving, said Hanlon. At this festive time of taking trips to the mall and holiday parties, perhaps we can think a little more on those in greater need.

Cochrane Times
reprinted in Tibet Environmental Watch

Anniversary of Everest ascent meaningful

by Larry Giles

The 50th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbing of Mt. Everest this Thursday is a big reason to celebrate for at least one Cochrane doctor.
Dr. Bill Hanlon travelled to the Kathmandu region of Nepal in April, working at a clinic in the capital city most widely known as the entry point for climbers planning an Everest ascent.
As an expedition to the summit can take more than two months factoring in time to acclimatize and the 10-day trek just to reach the base camp, Hanlon was there when many of the climbers planning to summit on the 50th anniversary were starting out.
But for the Cochrane physician, the first ascent on May 29, 1953 was a significant event, not just for the climb but also for the legacy Hillary and his sherpa TenZing Norgay have left.
Hillary is known in the region for his humanitarian efforts and has built medical facilities and schools in the country. Nepal has been isolated from the world for so long and is now struggling to catch up, says Hanlon who was intrigued by the two extremes of Nepal, which is actually one of the poorest countries in the world.
“It is a country where you can get an MRI scan in Kathmandu within 30 minutes if you can afford the $200 and yet have difficulty getting an aspirin in many of the rural communities outside of Kathmandu.”
The elevation, isolation and rapid change in Nepal makes it an interesting study for Hanlon, who enjoys learning about other cultures both socially and medically.
He was there during the initial outbreak of SARS, which caused great concern for the medical community in Kathmandu.
One of the primary access points to Nepal is via Hong Kong, which is where the virus has been a major problem.
The availability of masks and other preventative measures was of concern, but so were the ramifications of an actual case or worse yet, a larger outbreak.
“There are only two or three ventilators in the entire country…the infrastructure to support a patient (including a quarantine facility) is not really there.”
Hanlon’s recent trip to Nepal was not his first. He had trekked the area in the 1980s and at that time had made it to the base camp for Everest expeditions.
He finds the medical challenges in developing countries of interest and enjoys the similarities between the mountain communities west of Calgary and others around the world.
There are many medical ties between Calgary and Kathmandu including a few international development projects between the University of Calgary and Nepal’s Tribhuvan University. In fact the present head physician at the Nepal International Clinic completed some of his training at the U of C.
Many of the ailments at the clinic Hanlon was working at related to altitude sickness. The Cochrane townsite sits at an altitude of 3,500 feet and the top of the Big Hill at about 4,000 feet with some of the highest peaks in the Rockies reaching close to 12,000 feet.
In Nepal, many of the passes reached by trekkers are more than 14,00 feet above sea level with some of them as high as 16,000 feet, all of which is still below where any of the true mountain climbing actually begins.
“There is some challenging medicine coming off the mountain. Certainly altitude sickness takes its toll every year…people die on that mountain and they die just trekking there too.”
One of the issues that has been discussed in the area is setting up a clinic for the porters, which are the locals who carry the majority of supplies to Everest base camp and beyond. It is the porters who do the grunt work in a harsh environment for relatively little pay and one did die while Hanlon was in the area.
All the money generated in the region by tourism brings both positives and negatives, Hanlon says. The country is not heavily populated but the mountainous terrain means little land is available for agricultural purposes. As the tourism money is generated only in the Kathmandu valley and the popular trekking routes, it is difficult for an average family to advance beyond the basics of everyday necessities.
And yet people have a strong interest in education and will walk long distances to make sure their children get to school so that they may have a chance at a better life.
The people of Nepal are also extremely tolerant.
“It is a country where Buddhists, Hindus and Christians live together. Nepalis have accepted and live in harmony with Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees,” he says. Tradition-ally their culture has been deeply rooted in spirituality and less on the material.”
Before returning to Cochrane, Hanlon attended the International Society of Travel Medicine meeting in New York, but it was what he saw while in New York that struck him. The contrast between limousine travel in Manhattan to people sleeping in doorways in the lower East Village was huge for him.
“What is the true meaning of success in life and how do we define it,” he asks. “Is it getting to the top of the corporate ladder or the top of a mountain?
“In our efforts to climb our respective peaks in life we sometimes lose track of the price we have to pay to reach our goal…Just as the people of Nepal look to us for direction and change, we can also learn from them in the area of compassion, tolerance and generosity towards strangers as well as friends.”