'Fearless' father with multiple sclerosis training with lifeguards to scale Mount Everest
Posted April 09, 2019 06:57:17
More than 8,840 metres of steep terrain stands between Bobby Bajram and his lifelong goal of climbing Mount Everest.
- Bobby Bajram, 51, will leave Australia on May 11 to climb Mount Everest, hoping to be the “oldest guy with a disability” to do so
- He is legally blind and has limited movement after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 13
- The disability pensioner trains with his local surf club lifesavers and hopes his feat will promote equality for people with disabilities
The 51-year-old father, who is legally blind and has multiple sclerosis (MS), has already overcome numerous hurdles in life but said this will be by far the toughest.
With limited mobility, simply getting out of bed in the morning is a challenge for Mr Bajram.
“At 13 I was diagnosed with MS and I was really sick and I thought, ‘here I am sitting in my chair and my eyes are sort of blank and gone’ and I said ‘one day I’m going to climb to the top of the world and see the blue sky’,” he said.
“And that was in the St Vincent’s Hospital on the sixth floor in the St Mary’s Ward — and I will never forget that.”
Training with lifeguards
Woolamai Beach Surf Life Saving Club is putting Mr Bajram through his paces to make that dream a reality.
Lifeguard Jackson Sinclair has been putting his hand up to train with Mr Bajram since he first met him.
“The beach is the frontier where the environment is at its harshest and I guess it really is a testament to the human body,” he said.
“Walking on the sand really works the legs, going into the water, all that resistance training, it really builds up your core and paddling a board builds up your arms so it’s a full body workout just being on a beach.
“Between four and six months a year, [I’m] wheelchair bound, [on] walking sticks, can’t get out of bed, really lethargic, really sick — it really knocks me around.”
Despite his physical challenges, Mr Bajram also hits the gym and trains in a climate-controlled room to mimic the Everest atmosphere.
“I’ll train at about 20,000 feet, they suck the air out and I’ll walk on a treadmill at an incline of 16, which is steep, for a couple of hours,” he said.
“I’ll have a day rest, but when I’m good … I’ll do it with the walking stick.
“But when I’m bad. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. I can’t move.”
Mr Bajram has a swag of sponsors to help fund the experience.
The disability pensioner also has the full support of the Woolamai Beach Surf Club.
“When I first saw Bobby he was really energetic and wanted to get out and go — and now just after his injections [to go overseas], he’s become a bit less energetic; but I’ve seen Bobby go a fair way, he’s improved a lot,” lifeguard Will Slator said.
“If they can send some blokes in a steel capsule … to the moon in 1969 … I can do this.”
Mr Bajram will leave Australia on May 11.
He will have a large team with him, including Sherpas, doctors and even a film crew to live stream his climb.
“Now whether I make it up and down, up the top and down, I don’t know,” Mr Bajram said.
“My doctors have said I’m going to die up there.
“Thankfully I don’t have too much fear. I was born without fear. I am fearless.
“But if my doctors tell me to turn around, I will … I have to come home for my daughter.”
Diagnosed at 13 years of age
At the time, Mr Bajram was one of the youngest Australians to be diagnosed with MS.
The central nervous system condition affects about 26,000 Australians, mostly aged between 20 and 40.
“I’m in 24-hour pain every day, sharp pain every day,” Mr Bajram said.
“If you’ve ever had a hangover or a really bad flu and you get your head up off the pillow and you go ‘ugh’, that’s how I feel but times it by ten.”
‘Everyone has their own Everest’
Mr Bajram said some days it can be hard to remain positive but the purpose of his ‘crazy’ feat is to dissipate inequality.
“I’m going to be the oldest guy with a disability to ever go to the top of Mount Everest,” he said.
“It’s really saying something for people with disabilities and our carers.
“That’s why I’m doing this; to say ‘this ability, dis-ability, well you know what, just have a crack’ — whether you have a disability or not.
“You don’t have to [literally] climb Everest, because everyone has their own ‘Mount Everest’.
“Whether it’s getting a job, or running a marathon or losing weight or building a car — whatever it is, just give it a go. You’re a winner if you just give it a go.”