A BEARSDEN man who organised a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for research into Parkinson’s disease has spoken of his delight that his team made it to the summit last week.
Bryn Williams (40) was diagnosed with the condition in September 2007 aged just 36 - and within three months he was already planning to create a ‘Wobbly Williams’ website to offer hope, information and support to others.
Since then he and his supporters have raised £400,000 for Parkinson’s charities and they hope to reach their £150,000 target for this latest charity expedition to the African peak in Tanzania - which will go to Funding Neuro to carry out clinical trials of a drug.
The team of 27 included rugby legend Gavin Hastings - his wife Diane was diagnosed with Parkinson’s eight years ago at the age of 39 - and Miss Scotland, Jennifer Reoch.
It took them six days to reach the top of the mountain, which is 19,341 feet high, and they finally got there last Tuesday after an ascent of eight hours - leaving base camp at midnight on Monday. This coincided with the 70th birthday of legendary heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984.
Bryn, who lives with his wife Vicky and two daughters Ella (9) and Rebecca (7), described how he felt as they set off.
He said: “I was scared. It looked so intimidating. So steep. So very, very daunting. I was breathless, panicking at times, to get breath. I was faced with having to climb the height of Ben Nevis in ever thinning air.
“I started to feel the altitude. I drank loads and walked slowly. My determination kept my Parkinson’s disease at bay. Without my determination I am nothing.
“I cannot put into words how draining the climb was. As we plodded higher altitude sickness kicked in. I had a headache and felt lightheaded as we approached the summit. I was using poles to help my balance but I had no energy to battle my Parkinson’s and make my right arm work correctly. This caused me to fall a couple of times, but I never thought about giving up. It was all about determination.
“At 6am the sky lightened as the sun rose behind Mawenzi. A great lift. By 6.30am we could see the sign at Gilmans Point. At 7am we were there, on top of the crater edge - on top of Kilimanjaro!
“It was all tears and snot. Everyone hugging. No singing or shouting, just private emotion. I thought about my girls, Vicky, and my family. I was immensely proud of myself.
“It was an amazing experience - I had the time of my life, it was totally and utterly exhilarating.”
Bryn, a patent lawyer, says that he wanted to show people that having the illness is not all doom and gloom and you can be optimistic, especially as there is a lot of research now which seems to be positive about the prospects of finding a cure.
Parkinson’s, which affects over 100,000 people in Britain at any one time, is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system which often impairs the sufferer’s motor skills and speech, as well as other functions.