High Altitude Cerebral Edema is when the brain swells in the skull. The headaches don’t go away. They often bring with them an unsteady gait, nausea and vomiting, even loss of consciousness and retinal haemorrhaging.
At 19,341ft (5,895m), Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, but it’s also a killer. A study between 1996 and 2003 revealed that in just those eight years alone, 25 people died on the mountain, 14 of those from altitude sickness.
Every year approximately 1,000 people a year are evacuated whilst attempting the climb.
Laura, the wife of Bolton Wanderers skipper David Wheater and Jennifer, the wife of ex-Whites goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan, alongside a team of six friends, achieved this challenge of epic proportions just a few weeks ago.
The team, known as Team Kilimanjaro, not only successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, but they speed summited it - the tallest lone mountain in the world - in just 72 hours.
Three days up, two days down; with no time to acclimatise and a challenge that takes the average person 11 days.
Altitude sickness attacked their bodies every step of the way; from hallucinating, loss of vision, fainting, vomiting and headaches each one of the climbers were hit hard. To stop and take a break or refuel for any longer than 30 seconds meant breaking into an uncontrollable shiver due to the biting cold.
Starting the final ascent at midnight, they continued through eight hours of constant steep incline, through ice and snow to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak, and when they got there they turned right back around for another gruelling six hours back down to basecamp.
A climb that endured not only severe altitude sickness, but also hunger and sleep deprivation. The hardest thing they’ve ever put their bodies through and the hardest thing they’ve ever put their minds through… but why?
Team Kilimanjaro had an aim to raise £250,000 for Mind and The GEM Appeal Charities. So far, they’re proud to say that with the help of those around them they’ve reached £30,000.
This money will help local charity, the GEM Appeal, buy a lifesaving machine for children with genetic and metabolic disorders and will help Mind Charity produce a program to encourage those with mental health problems to get involved in sport.
The money raised will help save thousands and thousands of lives and every penny truly does count.
Why the GEM Appeal and Mind Charities?
Tragedy can befall anyone and so these two charities are meaningful to all of the climbers but particularly to wife of Andrew Lonergan, Jennifer, and wife of Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp, Jade.
Eleven years ago, Jennifer and Andrew welcomed their first daughter Millie into the world. Soon after she was born, after having a routine heel prick test they found out that she had a rare metabolic condition called Phenylketonuria (PKU). Phenylketonuria, is a genetic disorder of the metabolism which without treatment can lead to a variety of life-shortening mental and development problems including seizures.
Since Millie’s diagnosis Jen has received unwavering support from Karen Johnson, founder of The Gem Appeal which was formed to support families of children with genetic disorders and is the sole source of income the Willink Unit at the Royal Manchester Children’s hospital where Millie is treated.
Mind Charity have provided crucial support for many people but especially climber Jade Sharp.
Unfortunately, in 2011, Jade and Billy lost their 2 day old little boy Luey, to a condition called gastroschisis.
Jade found herself alone daily with aching arms and a nursery missing a baby. Quite soon after she felt herself slipping into a pretty dark place.
The joy of life had gone and the future looked pretty empty. Mind were there to help her get back on track mentally. Jade credits Mind with saving her life.
Sadly, in August 2013, Jennifer Lonergan tragically lost her brother to suicide. Anthony had suffered with depression for many years and on August 19, the struggle became too much and he took his own life.
Unfortunately this isn’t uncommon and the statistics are frightening. Jen wants to help raise the awareness of mental health, detach the stigma and encourage those in need to get help.
Please help support their mission by visiting website www.250kilimanjaro.co.uk and donating whatever you can.
There will be members of the team around the ground at Saturday's game against Hull City where they will be taking donations, so please give generously.