My Challenge – Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro By Jos Reeves
On Monday, 1st July 2013, I will fly to Tanzania to begin my attempt to reach
the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. I’m going with my dad and older sister. Both she and I are doing it to raise money for charities close to our hearts, so obviously my choice is Diabetes UK.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in October 2006, when I was 9yrs old. I had been ill for a couple of months with all the symptoms of hyperglycaemia, as we finally learnt. I was drinking and eating lots but was losing weight and looked like a skeleton. I was being bullied at school and my whole personality had changed, not in a good way. When I was diagnosed I had ketone acidosis and was not far off slipping into a coma. I thought I was going to die. I was immediately put on insulin and saline drips, and only a couple of hours later I was telling jokes and feeling so much better. I started off using insulin injections, which didn’t work well. So in January 2010 I switched over to an insulin pump which has improved my blood sugars but not completely.
My dad climbed Kilimanjaro in August 2005. He promised before he left that he would take my sister and me when I turned 16, which I won’t quite be when I take on this challenge. I was diagnosed a year later and despite my blood sugars remaining unstable I’m not letting this stop me. I see it as a perfect opportunity to prove that my illness can’t stop me doing what I want and to raise money for research into diabetes. My sister is 20yrs old and suffers from asthma. We both see this as an opportunity to make a difference to our chosen charities.
Mount Kilimanjaro is 19340ft high and is described as the ‘Roof of Africa’. The Kilimanjaro National Park Authority estimate that only 40-50% of climbers successfully reach the summit, although the statistics I’ve seen put it more like 1 in 3. I am aware of the problems I will face on this climb and not only with my diabetes. Altitude sickness is one of the main reasons people don’t make it to the top. I will also be at risk of dehydration, hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia. I will be testing my blood sugars in temperatures as low as -25oC and I’ll have to store my insulin close to my body to prevent it from freezing on the final push to the summit.
Everything I raise will go towards Diabetes UK, as my parents are funding my trip. I know how necessary research into this disease is and want to support it as much as possible. I realise it may not make a difference to me, but hopefully it will for generations to come. Yes, I’m scared and I know what a challenge this is going to be, but it is a challenge that I’m going to face head on.