Helping Others Scale New Peaks
Thank You — those simple words of heartfelt gratitude can have a profound effect as Dr. Kumaran Rasappan found out early in his career.
“I can never forget the ‘thank you’ a grateful father told me that day. The satisfaction I felt at that moment probably surpasses everything that has come since. I immediately realised that is why I practise medicine!” he says, beaming ear to ear, as he fondly remembers his early days as both a doctor and mountaineer.
Dr. Rasappan recounts how mountaineering unwittingly lead him to his true passion of helping others while on a training climb at the mountain ranges in Xinjiang, China. While waiting at base camp to begin his ascent, he was approached by one of his porters to provide emergency medical assistance to a child that had been scalded by hot water after a campsite accident.
Dr. Rasappan explains that many porters and guides for the mountain ranges in the region are nomadic people who travel the rural and isolated area with their families to look for work with very little access to basic amenities like healthcare. Fresh out of university, and days away from the nearest hospital, Dr. Rasappan was well out of his element. “I was terrified! I hadn’t even done my paediatric posting yet.
I didn’t know what to with this screaming child!” he exclaims. With little choice but to act, he cleaned the child’s wounds, applied burn oils, put on new bandages and administered painkillers —much to the gratitude of her father.
In 2012, he became one of the rare few Singaporeans to have savoured the rarefied air atop Everest. The result of a year of intense training, failure, perseverance, and even sacrifice, his heroic ascent of Everest opened new doors for him to chase a very different high from that of the publicity around his achievement — one that only comes from making a positive impact in the lives of others and catalysing a change in the world.
Soon after his triumphant return, he realised that his achievement could serve a much higher purpose than just personal glory creating new opportunities to give back and help others in many unexpected ways.
One avenue that opened up to Dr. Rasappan was the chance to use his mountaineering experience to give motivational talks to various groups from schools to TEDxSingapore. Then came the opportunity to counsel inmates at Singapore Prison and Prison School through the Hindu Centre’s Mitra Programme. Following talks at the prison school, and some chance meetings, Dr. Rasappan even fostered a mentoring relationship with one of the former inmates, motivating him not to re-offend and turn his life around. “I had never imagined that I get the opportunity to befriend someone like that, or I would actually have the power to change his life. That was my biggest satisfaction!”
After summiting the world’s highest peak, Dr. Rasappan recognised that he was empowered to inspire others to reach their own peaks. By sharing his story of failure, sacrifice, and ultimate triumph, he hopes to encourage others to even surpass his own achievements. “Being able to change the life of a former inmate was a game changer for me, and gave me a new perspective on how I can help others” he explains.
Having found success and personal achievement with Everest, Dr. Rasappan has since trained his focus on helping others do the same. “It’s not just about me; it is about sharing my experience to give back to society. I feel most satisfied, when I can influence and inspire others to greater achievements. I think that will leave a better and lasting legacy in the world — a lot more than anything I can achieve on my own.”
Five years after summiting the world’s tallest mountain, Dr. Kumaran Rasappan is about ready to hang up his climbing boots. Between family, work, and his own mounting commitments to social causes, his most recent expeditions to K2 in Pakistan and Makalu in Nepal in July and October 2017 in support of the Home Nursing Foundation and the Singapore National Stroke Association will probably be the last.
While summiting the world’s tallest and most intimidating mountains may be coming to an end, Dr. Rasappan says that his “real work” has to continue. “Fulfilment is not a fleeting moment, it is an ongoing pursuit that makes me feel inspired, happy, and satisfied. So I will keep looking for ways to make a change, be useful to society, and impact the world because I want to feel that way for the rest of my life.”