5895m above sea level and the oxygen is thinning…
…..but the body is not.
And I am in a whole world of pain.
And no, seeing as you ask, I am not about talking politics (or at least not on this occasion). Rather, I mean the physical pain of preparing to climb, just four weeks from now, Africa’s Mt Kilimanjaro – “Killy”, to its friends.
The training has been gut-busting. This morning it was a 15 km walk at speed. Yesterday it was 750 steps, two at a time. Tomorrow is doing sit-ups and press-ups in the altitude chamber. And all this is just for warm-ups.
Why the climb??
Well, a little over twelve months ago I attended a local fundraiser for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation where the proceeds raised are used to buy much needed equipment for children’s hospitals around Australia.
A nurse from a country town stood before the well-heeled audience to tell a terrible story.
As she recounted, a couple of months earlier, a two year old child had died in her arms because the local hospital did not have a $1,500 piece of equipment that could have been used to save that oh so precious little life. Nurse May was calm and deliberate as she told the story and it initially alarmed me that she seemed so clinical about the loss – but, of course, she had to be in such total control, otherwise she would have been weeping. We, her audience, were under no such constraint.
After nine years as a Minister dealing with billions of dollars flying back and forth, I became angry that this sort of thing could happen in Australia in the 21st Century. Was I somehow responsible? Why had our governments, of all stripes, state and federal, allowed this to happen? What if it was my child? Wasn’t this exactly why I went into politics….to do something?
One thing led to another, with one thought tumbling over the next, until before I knew it, I was conscious that I had the microphone in my paw and was challenging four hundred people in the audience to climb a mountain. Mount Everest (8850m) was too technical and Mount Kosciuzko too small (2228m). Mt Kilimanjaro was a beacon of hope on a continent of despair. Climbing for six days at altitude would result in significant pain and risk. It would be an enormous challenge for us all.
On that day twenty people put their hands in the air and indicated their willingness to walk. Some have dropped off and others have joined the team. With over one hundred support crew it will be a massive operation.
We will raise $1million for hospitals around Australia. We will not rest until we have reached our target. We will do everything we can to prevent another child’s avoidable death in an Australian hospital.
John Singleton pledged $50,000 to support me….he is a good mate. He thinks it is a small price to pay to take me out of politics with a cardiac arrest at 5000m! Others have been very generous as well.
I am still angry these days even though I am sure we will make our target. Recently I read in the Cairns Post that some people were spending their $900 Government cheque on tattoos and strippers. I thought of that little girl and that $1,500 piece of equipment and I reminded myself that the challenge is never over – not with a mountain beckoning nor with a political hill to climb.
You can support the walk by donating here, at www.humptysmountain.com.au
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