Maintaining its position along the Actual Ground Position Line, the Indian Army battles on the highest terrains in Siachen glacier region where the inclement weather is its biggest adversary. The forbidding terrains have claimed more casualties then the enemy’s bullets.Despite improved living conditions and hi-tech communication facilities, army personnel stationed at higher terrains often fall prey to high-altitude pulmonary oedema (Hapo). Hapo is a condition where water collects in lungs of the infected and takes a life-threatening form.
The only remedial measure for this illness is to immediately evacuate the soldier to lower altitudes and pump in fresh oxygen. But at these posts, where every move is a laborious exercise, where a helicopter evacuation is at the mercy of the weather gods, the survival options are minimal.Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory (DEBEL) in Bangalore has unveiled a unique solution for those affected by Hapo. It has developed a life-saving Hapo bag. Patients affected by Hapo can wait in these magical bags, till evacuated to safer climes. Hapo normally sets in when soldiers posted at high altitudes of about 3,000 metres are exposed to the feral elements. Water accumulation in the lungs of the patient leads to a rise in the carbon-dioxide levels in the body. Once tucked into a Hapo bag, the patients’ condition is reversed.
The bag absorbs carbon dioxide from the body by increasing pressure, temperature and pumping in oxygen, The unique feature of the Hapo bag is the ability to rejuvenate the patient in debilitating conditions. “The person can easily be inside the bag for a week. This helps if the unit is caught up in bad weather and the patient cannot be transferred to lower altitudes or given immediate medical help,” averred one of the scientists.Once an officer or jawan is nestled inside the life-saving bag, the Army unit can think of options to evacuate him. Presently, a foot pump needs to be operated to keep the patient stable. The one-man portable Hapo chamber is meant for operations in Kashmir, Siachen, Ladakh, Himalayan posts and the North East. The cost of the imported bags varies from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per piece.