How far would you go to help a friend? Our Chris Cardozo, a clinical research associate based in the UK, is climbing a mountain. And not just any mountain -- Mount Kilimanjaro.
Chris's friend, Matt, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) six years ago. There is no cure for MS, but current treatment is based on controlling disease activity by reducing the number of relapses someone experiences, or by managing the individual symptoms of MS. Matt undergoes Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy weekly, where he is placed in a pressurized chamber and breathes oxygen through a mask. This is not a cure but this therapy relieves him of his MS symptoms.
Matt attends the MS Action Center in Walthamstow, London, a volunteer-based charity community where he finds support and therapy. Chris is climbing Kilimanjaro to raise funds to help support this important organization in his friend's life:
Why are you making this climb?
For a while I always wanted to experience what it is like at high altitude with the lack of oxygen. I am amazed and impressed at how we can push the human body, and I want to see how far I can push mine. I always believe we can always do better than before…I guess if that is the case, then base camp Everest will be next on the list.
What does your friend Matt think about all of this?
Matt has always been very active and competitive as a kid and continued to be as a young adult, especially on the football pitch. Coming to terms with the disease must have been difficult for Matt, as he was so independent and that was taken away from him, which is something I could empathize with.
But, as time progressed, he became very conscious of how the volunteers at MS Action Center have helped him understand MS and given him an understanding of how to look after his body. Generating awareness to raise the profile of this small charity is one way for Matt and his family to support the charity, so they can help more people like him.
Can you tell us more about MS Action and how this climb will benefit them?
My friend and I agreed that we would try to raise awareness and profile of a small charity that would help a friend of mine. MS Action Centre is based in North London and is run by volunteers for people primarily with Multiple Sclerosis. This centre provides support for my friend Matt, who suffers with Multiple Sclerosis. Matt was diagnosed with MS 6 years ago and has been attending the MS action Centre for over 3 years.
MS Action is a charitable therapy centre that has been providing complementary therapies for people like Matt with Multiple Sclerosis for over 30 years. They support MS sufferers in relieving their symptoms by providing Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment. The MS Action Centre is also a place where Matt and his carers can hang out with other people like them and share their experiences. MS Action Centre’s aim is to improve the quality of life for all their users and carers through a variety of mainstream and complementary therapies, exercise, advice, and support.
Speaking to Matt’s brother, he told me when Matt first joined it helped him to understand and come to terms with the disease because he was around people who were in the same situation as him, some even worse. MS Action Center helped him (and even us) to understand more about the disease itself, hearing other people’s stories and experiences.
By supporting this charity we are allowing for more sufferers of MS and Cerebral palsy to attend sessions to help relieve their symptoms, such as providing the hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions and understanding of looking after the mind and body.
What do you personally hope to gain from the experience?
This is probably the toughest physical and mental challenge I have taken part in so far. I would want to come back mentally stronger from this experience and apply it to life. I set this challenge to remind myself that there are other people in the world, like Matt, who constantly climb their own mountain.
What made you decide on Mt. Kilimanjaro – as opposed to another mountain?
Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest freestanding mountain with an ice glacier on its summit. It has fascinated me that a mountain in Africa has snow!
My parents lived in Nairobi and climbed its neighbor, Mt Kenya, and my grandfather lived in Tanzania for most of his life and spoke highly about it, but never climbed it. This was an opportunity to experience what his life may have been like, as well as achieving a dream.
Are you taking a good luck charm?
If the mosquitos have their way with me…..I think my malaria tablets will be my lucky charm!
What’s your climbing experience?
Honestly I haven’t done much mountain climbing, so this is something out of my comfort zone and experience. However I have completed the UK 3 peak challenge, which is climbing the highest mountains in the UK; Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell Pike (England) and Snowdon (Wales), all in 24 hours. It’s great climbing these mountains part of a team as you keep pushing each other to succeed and do better.
What inspired you to become a CRA? What is your hope for your friend Matt?
I have always wanted to help people in any form. Being a CRA helps me to achieve this as I am involved directly with clinical research, looking to better the current treatments and medications we have available for the people.
People like Matt have inspired me to join the clinical research industry to help fight disease by looking to develop new safe drugs that can reduce suffering for both patient and their families.
As we know there is no current cure for MS, but right now there are places like the MS Action Centre that can provide Matt with methods of relieving their symptoms and taking care of their mind and body. By supporting this charity, Matt will have a place where he can go locally to receive his treatment that will alleviate his symptoms.
I hope in our lifetime we see further development of drugs and treatments that will help Matt in future.
Maybe one day I will see him back on the football pitch.