In October of this year, I started my ascent of a dormant mound of rocks and lava on the African continent, otherwise known as Mount Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro is one of the seven summits and sits at 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) so it’s not exactly a walk in the park. I hiked the 6 day Machame route, a little more scenic than some of the others, but also steeper and shorter. Due to this, it’s known to be one of the most difficult, due to the shorter acclimatisation periods. It was a long time coming and I’d been preparing since June.
Initially, I wasn’t going to climb Kilimanjaro for charity. Partly as it’s a personal challenge and partly as I somewhat disagree with people sponsoring others to do something that is, in essence, a tourist trip.
However, I self-funded my entire trip and paid for it myself! None of my sponsorship went towards equipment/flights etc… Which is how it should be, in my opinion!
I’ve previously raised money for Cancer Research UK and the Bone Cancer Research Trust with Tough Mudder after family members and close university friends have passed away from that awful illness, but this time it was for a much more personal, and rare, cause.
My Grandad, who I was very close to, went in to hospital earlier this year and nobody, including his doctors, initially knew what was wrong with him. It turned out to be Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which is not only extraordinarily rare, but extremely serious.
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. It is a very rare illness, usually affecting about one person in 100,000. It can affect anybody, of any age. The first symptoms of this disorder usually come on after an infection such as a cold and include weakness or a tingling sensation in the legs. Though it can also spread to the upper body as well. These symptoms periodically get worse until sometimes the individual cannot use their legs/arms at all. If it does affect the upper body it can also stop you breathing properly and affect your heart rate.
The symptoms can progress over hours, days and weeks. Most people reach their weakest point within the first fortnight after symptoms appear, and by the third week of the illness 90% of all affected are at their weakest. Most people recover from this, but it can take over a year and a substantial period of time in hospital, whilst undergoing physio and rehabilitation to use your muscles again. Some people do not recover and are unable to walk.
In the most acute form of this illness, it can be life threatening.
My Grandad left hospital and was doing really well, undergoing all his physio and rehab. Then, in June, he was admitted to hospital and without going in to too much detail, he died very suddenly the next day. It was unexpected, and a complete shock for all of us. I’d only seen him the day before and he seemed okay.
As such, I couldn’t think of any charity I would rather support than one which helps those affected by this horrible illness. It’s such a rare condition that I felt, and continue to feel that more attention needs to be brought to it.
In the end, I climbed Kilimanjaro, reached the summit and cried from both exhaustion and happiness.
I descended the mountain and went straight to sleep, and when I woke up in the morning my fundraising target was on £965 + £132.50 gift aid. My target had been £500, so I was very glad to have doubled that amount!
I climbed Kilimanjaro in memory of my Grandad, and that’s what kept me going when I felt down or tired throughout my days on the mountain. I am so glad this money is going to fund research and help for those who need it and are affected by Guillain-Barré syndrome.