A doctor based at Winchester hospital is looking forward to a different challenge after signing up to help a former patient scale Ethiopia’s highest mountain.
Dr Geoff Watson, who works as a consultant anaesthetist at Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester, is part of a team helping motivational speaker and quadruple amputee Alex Lewis to climb 4,550m up Ras Dashen.
Alex needed to have both of his arms and both of his legs amputated, as well as undergoing extensive skin grafts and facial reconstruction, after contracting strep A toxic shock syndrome, septicaemia and necrotising fasciitis in 2013.
He was initially treated at Royal Hampshire County Hospital, where the condition was discovered, and Dr Watson was one of the first clinicians to care for him.
The pair have kept in close contact over the years, and Geoff was asked to join the team as both a clinician and a friend.
Dr Watson said: “When Alex first asked me to join the team I didn’t hesitate to accept. It’s a remarkable challenge to be a part of and I’m really excited to take this on.
“Alex is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the privileging of knowing, and to be able to share part of his extraordinary journey with him is an honour. I think there will be a lot of celebrations when we get to the summit, and probably a few tears too.”
Among those joining Alex and Dr Watson on this 10-day challenge is Emebet Ale Dires, an amputee from Ethiopia. The team are raising funds for the Wild Wheelchairs project, which aims to build a wheelchair manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and support ongoing programmes to help the disabled population in the region.
As well as raising awareness of disability and supporting the community, the project will bring employment opportunities and crucially inspire the young disabled community, both in Ethiopia and back home in the UK.
Students at the University of Southampton have designed and built an off-road solar powered handcycle, which will allow Alex and Emebet to ascend the mountain, but it will be a gruelling challenge.
Dr Watson added: “There certainly aren’t stories of quadruple amputees climbing mountains, so as well as being there as a support to Alex and Emebet, we will be closely monitoring body temperature and oxygen levels and hopefully bring some interesting research back with us.”
To donate visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=DavidCollinson5&pageUrl=1 and you can follow their progress by following alexlewistrust on Instagram.