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Kili

What’s that coming over the hill?

Well, this is it. It feels surreal as I think back to that video that I saw 2 years ago that convinced me in that moment to climb a mountain. I actually paid the deposit within hours and told my parents that I was going on the trip afterwards. As you can imagine, they were not best pleased. It has taken me a while to get them onside.

Since then, I have been patiently waiting and frantically fundraising so that I can step foot on a plane that will be the biggest physical challenge that I have faced so far in my life. Not the plane, the mountain climbing bit…you know, the trek – anyway you know what I mean. It is going to be tough.

In the last few months, it has been great to (attempt to) train and get my kit together and now the two bags that are going to safely take me to nearly 6,000 metres altitude are ready. I am staring at them and realising that this is everything that I am going to need and I can carry it on my back.

I have absolutely loved talking to people about their experiences. Your words of encouragement and laughs have dialled down the nerves that are now starting to creep in. I know in my heart of hearts that I am not physically ready for this challenge, but there is nothing (bar falling off the edge) that is going to keep me from reaching the peak.

There have also been a lot of doubters and mockers. I was one of them for a while, and I am the one actually doing it. However, the privilege has been raising over £3,000 for Meningitis Research that I know will make a huge difference to people’s lives. I do not want to be verbose, but meeting and listening to some of the people that this money will go to help has made this all the more worthwhile.

I could have just paid for my trek and gone and done this myself. However, I never would have had the motivation of doing it if I wasn’t walking with all of the support behind me. I am carrying the names of all my donors on my back and thinking about the gentlemen that burst into tears when he told me that his wife died of Meningitis in early hours of a bucket collection in central London.

This is real and it is happening. When I next speak to you I will have been over the clouds and be back on the ground again. As much as this is an “easy” climb, compared to others, I am not going to take this for granted.

For anyone that is thinking about making a stupid or impulsive decision, my advice is to throw your huge size 10s into it and apologise later. This could be the dumbest thing I have ever done or it could (and will) be the most amazing. The only way to find out is to actually do it and suck up the fear.

I am absolutely terrified. But I am also massively excited. What’s that coming over the hill? It’s a fat boy, mate. See you on the other side!

bit.ly/HiranKili

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So a monkey walks into a train station…

I am going to carry on from where we left off yesterday. It is easy to ignore the great things that people are doing for others, purely because we are bombarded with so much of it that we start to become used to it. Oh, another person on my news feed is doing a trek or running a marathon, and they are asking for money. Scroll. Nevertheless, I want to share with you the story of how hard it is to raise money. The fundraiser’s story.

For the past two years, I have raised over £3,000 with a variety of things, from bake sales to sweepstakes to runs, and am on my way to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this summer. It has all been for Meningitis Research Foundation and the last thing we did was bucketing on the streets of London this Easter. As much fun as it looks, bucketing has got to be one of the most horrendously difficult things I have ever done in my life.

The day starts at 5AM. You collect a permit, put on a costume (in this case a monkey) and you try to beat the morning rush hour. Yes, that’s right. You get there earlier than the earliest commuters, set up a spot and stand in that position for around 4 hours without a break. For the most part, you exhaust your vocal cords telling people about how important the cause is, how many people are struggling and how any spare change can help, over and over again. People don’t care. They avoid eye contact with you, as you smile through the pain of losing the blood in your hands, as the bucket starts to weigh down on your forearm. Your legs ache and toes blister. The bucket keeps getting heavier. With over 12 hours to last, the thought of sitting down makes you want to weep.

Out of every 100 people, about 5 people will donate. 1 will talk to you. But that is the difference. Every time I felt like I was going to lose hope, a stranger on their way to work saw me, slowed down, smiled, and reached for their purse or wallet. And then I started to hear the stories. “My daughter died from Meningitis….I lost my wife a few years ago…I had it as a kid, but they caught it early” – it felt strange saying it, but the only thing I could muster replying was, “I’m glad you’re still here.”

On the second day at 7AM, a man walked up to me having lost his partner from Meningitis 14 years prior. Initially walking past, he stopped and turned back to face me, his eyes wet with tears. After telling me the story, I put the bucket down and gave him a hug. He started to sob. There were barely 15 people on the streets near Bank Station, yet there we stood, both feeling completely helpless and distraught. He emptied a few coins into the bucket as he went on his way, but he had given me a lot more than his spare change.

Suddenly the pain subsided. The aches and tiredness started to disappear. My voice got louder. The smile was back, but this time more determined.

I can say hand on heart, that I absolutely hate bucketing. It makes me feel small and basically invisible. However, the right people see me. The ones that have been though the hardship appreciate the effort and that is what makes it count. Luckily, I have no experience or history of Meningitis, but the reason I am so passionate about the cause is because when you meet these people you realise how horrible it is to really suffer. To understand what suffering looks and feels like. Remember that being grateful is about giving back in whichever way you can. Even if you look and feel like a complete fool for 48 hours.

To see more about the journey up until this point, click here. And if you are feeling generous, although there is absolutely no obligation to (I can’t stress this enough!) you can donate here.

P.S. I raised over £300 in London, so not a bad couple of days work…

Meet Ann and Trevor

These stories are such bittersweet reading. You feel your heart pound as the details of these sufferers is laid bare in their own words, but you are empowered by their courage to do one simple thing: be brutally honest. I can’t think of a better couple that empower this ideal than the Reeds, Trevor and Ann whose lives were wrecked 7 years ago.

To make matters worse, it was Christmas morning in 2007 when Trevor started to shake uncontrollably, when he should have been opening presents with his children and sipping champagne. It became clear after a few hours that Trevor had contracted meningococcal septicaemia, where poison was getting to his brain, and he was hours away from death. He was a mere 51 at the time.

On the day when everyone is resting at home, the Reeds were slowly fighting to keep their family together. As his organs slowly started to give way, he fell into a coma, and it was unclear whether he would get through the day. From x-ray to scan to medication, doctors were desperately trying to treat the infection before it started to spread to other parts of the body. He was hanging by a thread.

But the human spirit is not fragile. And belief is a wall that stands up in the quicksand of despair. Ann said “…I just talked. I could not lose him and I hoped he could hear me” and the sound of his wife’s voice was enough for him to tell her “How I love you” groggily as he started to make his recovery, three weeks after falling ill. He had survived. Though the disease had left its mark – Trevor had to have his fingers and toes amputated as they had deteriorated in the process of recovery and he was suffering from memory loss.

“But I am alive. In my heart I know it was the skill of the doctors in ICU who helped, but I honestly truly believe it was the love of my wife and family that pulled me through. Plus that amazing thing called willpower.” Usually I can write the words for others, but in this case, Trevor says everything that there is to say.

The money that is donated to the Meningitis Research Foundation, funded the befriending system that saw the Reeds matched up with a couple in a similar situation so that they could have some support. Trevor says this help was invaluable. Contracting meningitis and septicaemia can make life a lonely place, even if you have all the support in the world. It helps people to realise that in the darkest most isolated room in the hospital, there is someone there to offer a hand or an ear.

That is why I am asking you to support the work that is being done here. Read it, share it, talk about it. Give something back. Because none of us are safe until we have got it of it for good.

To read Ann’s story then click here and for Trevor’s testimonial follow this link.

#BeTheMiracle

Meet Beren

This is a particularly upsetting story and it was quite difficult to read, but it is important to share. This may seem like any other day to you, but the 15th of April 6 years ago was a harrowing day for the Rowbotham family. Through the eyes of her sister, Cendl, we can see the effects of Meningitis on Beren as only a small child. She was 10.

“I remember coming home from school and waiting until she got home from a friend’s birthday party. I could tell something was wrong. She was not her usual excitable self…she seemed fluey and said she was cold.” Beren did not have the flu. She had contracted the Meningococcal disease and she was in terrible danger.

However, none of the family expected anything and they went to sleep. Before going to bed, Cendl went to see her ill sister and she was getting progressively worse, “she was burning with a temperature and did not want me to touch her again and flinched away.” The next time Cendl would be awoken was by her mother to tell her to stay put, as she could see her sister being taken away by an ambulance out the window.

“The doors closed. Silence surrounded our farmhouse as the ambulance drove off.” Can you imagine what this young girl had to go through? Alone, grief-stricken, Cendl called her father who told her to say where she was as he made his way to the hospital. For the next few hours, she would lie there completely in the dark as to her sister’s condition and fate.

“It’s heart breaking to hear parents cry.” This sentence alone will make even the hardest person emotional. “I will never forget the words ‘we have lost Beren’ which came from my Dad’s lips” – Beren unfortunately lost her battle with this disease earlier that morning. The virus had got into her blood stream and spread around her body so fast nothing could be done.

“All I wanted was to see my little sister again. The loneliness is unimaginable. I lost my greatest friend and my soul mate and the wounds will never heal. All I can focus on now is celebrating what a wonderful childhood we had and how happy she and I had been.”

There are not that many instances when I am lost for words. But after this post, I was. I can’t imagine what this child is going through, losing her young sister to something that could be prevented if a vaccination had been brought forward earlier. I am not trying to make people feel guilty here, despite what some of you may think. This is not a conscience shock, but a reality check. These things are happening and we have the power to stop them.

We just have to link hands and think bigger.

If you want to read Cendl’s words, then click here.

And if you would like to donate to a cause that matters and makes a difference then click here.

Gimme Everything You Got

I have forgotten how great it is to do voluntary work. Not because it makes you feel warm and gooey inside, or even that you can publicise it (even though I know I am), but because it is fun! It is as simple as that. The sort of things that you do for free for someone else, are the sort of things that other people couldn’t pay you to do. However, the motivation isn’t payment but the understanding that you are stepping out of your comfort zone which can only help you grow…and the bonus that another vulnerable person might benefit as well.

That is why I dressed up as a gorilla outside the Bullring in Birmingham. Hang on, maybe I should back track a little bit. I found a cause this year that I really believed in, raising money for the Meningitis Research Foundation, and I wanted to keep a log of everything that I am doing so this is the place where I am writing it all down. I am going to be climbing Kilimanjaro next year with their support, so I am doing everything I can not only to raise money, but also awareness and give my time to them. Our time is the most priceless donation we can give.

With my university RAG, and dressed in a massive gorilla costume, we raided the city of Birmingham on a sunny Saturday afternoon buckets in hand. It was a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be because people tend to avoid collectors if they can even if they are dressed as a 6 ft (well nearly!) monkey in the middle of the street. Or they are even more annoying and pull on your tail or shout a bit of abuse at you which can be a little disheartening. Nevertheless, it is all worth it when you wave to a small child and with a smile and a nervous look towards their parents, they come up to you and shake your hand. Or give you a hug – I really liked those ones.

You might be thinking that this doesn’t have much to do with Meningitis, charity or awareness. But sometimes you have to take a step back and realise that you cannot be serious all the time. People are constantly bombarded with messages of woe and guilt to get them to feel something. When in fact, the best way to make someone feel something is to make them laugh or smile and then half your work is done. And I really enjoyed being in the suit, even though it suffocated me.

So I hoping that the next few posts and my journey to Kili will not only move you, but make you laugh and smile along the way. It is not my mission to make you feel guilty so that your conscience forces you to donate. I just hope that you will give to a cause and a person that is trying to make a difference in the only way he knows how. By talking to people. And by making his community listen.

So gimme everything you got!

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Meet Kathleen

Luckily, I have never come into to contact with meningitis or septicaemia. They are both afflictions that have a dramatic impact on someone’s life and I feel so fortunate that neither I nor a loved one have been affected by it. However, I remember at school being given lessons on how to recognise it, the headaches and loss of vision, paralysis and sense of numbness. Knowing this as well as the fact that you are more susceptible to it when you are young, as I got older I neglected to understand it any further. All I can vividly remember now is that if you got it, you had a very short time to live, and the chances are you couldn’t treat it. It was and still is extremely frightening.

So I started to look into it. I wanted to read the stories of those that had been blighted and it is my mission to share some of these stories with you. Of individuals that have fought it. Some have won these battles, and some have sadly lost them, but all of them are important in their own right. I thought I would start with one that really affected me when I read it because…well you will see why when I tell you.

Kathleen. She was a university student just like me and walked into her first year as a fresher full of enthusiasm as the next stage of her life began. She was a dancer and had performed since she was very young. Having come back from rehearsals and gone to bed early, her life was about to be inextricably changed in just one night. She had somehow contracted meningococcal septicaemia. I will go into detail of what this consists of in a later post. Luckily, she was able to drag herself out of bed and find her flatmates – feeling delirious and disorientated, within an hour she was at hospital. Within hours, her organs started to shut down and she was taken into intensive care. Her parents had got the call that their daughter was hours away from dying. The only thing that was saving her heart was the fact that she was fit due to her dancing.

But unfortunately, Kathleen would never dance again. After surviving those first few hours, and spending over three weeks in hospital including Christmas Day and New Year’s, her legs had severely deteriorated. She said, “Being told I would lose my legs is still the hardest moment I have encountered. The loss of my limbs, the empty space on the bed where my legs once were, is still emotionally painful to me. I would never dance again.” When I read that sentence, I teared up. I can’t imagine giving up my passion, it would be like my hands being chopped off so I couldn’t write. When I read that sentence, I realised how important it is to share Kathleen’s story.

Charity is a faceless cause. It is surrounded by aggressive advertising, cheap benefits and the same logos and branding. It is a business and I would be naïve in suggesting that it isn’t. However, there is a human side behind the money that is vital in highlighting. You need to see the change that you are helping to create, otherwise I can understand the cynicism. But be brave. Donate some money, but more than that give your time to a cause that you believe in. And tell me about it, because I live to hear your stories and write about them. What is life without anecdotes and lessons?

Luckily for Kathleen, the story has a happy ending. Find out more here: http://bit.ly/1lw2n7X

And if you would like to donate to my page then I would be very appreciative: www.virginmoneygiving.com/HiranAdhia

Kili

I am not a fantastically spontaneous person. I like plans. Nevertheless, the best experiences of my life have never really gone to plan. So when I walked into university, I made an impulsive decision that I am just coming to terms with now. I am by no means an adventurer, or even really a traveller, but no one can deny the appeal of climbing mountains. And that is exactly what I am going to do. In a year’s time, you will see me at the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Although I realise that it is not going to be easy. Many of you who know me well, seeing my physique, will question whether I have the capacity to make it to the top. Don’t worry guys, training is on my list. However, this is not a physical, but a mental challenge. That is the first thing that they told us at the introductory meeting – you need to prepare yourself for what is about to come. But there needs to be perspective.

One of the most important parts of the trip for me is the fact that it is not a purely selfish errand. I have to pay for the trip myself, but I also have to raise around £3000 for the Meningitis Research Foundation who I chose to support for the next two years. At first, it just seemed like an obstacle. But now I am really glad that I get the chance to hear the stories of those people that have been struck with such a terrifying illness. And I am educating myself. I am learning that there are many types of meningitis and septicaemia, I am seeing how it affects them and I am trying to get an understanding of how they pick themselves up and get through it.

This is a wonderful thing because it has pushed me to make an effort. I have fundraised for charity for years, but this is the first time that I felt a cause. And I really want to start speaking to you about it, so this is the start of the journey. This corner of the internet will (as it has always been) my scrapbook to finding a way to get to the top of that 19,341 ft mound.

If you know anyone that has suffered from meningitis or septicaemia and they are happy to talk about it, I would appreciate if you could put them in touch with me or direct their attention to this post. I want to hear and reflect some of these stories. Because we all need to realise how close to home this actually is.

Prepare yourself for the next few months. And if you want to keep track, bookmark this blog and www.virginmoneygiving.com/HiranAdhia