Before you ask, no I am not staying at Grumpy’s house! My name is Paul Coker and I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes back in 1977, when I was five years old. I grew up with everybody telling me about the things that I cannot do because I have diabetes. This was a huge mistake my diabetes has meant that every day I beat the odds and set new standards, you might prefer to call this stubborn, I call it determination.
You may know me already for the voluntary work that I do with JDRF and INPUT Diabetes, I have even had the odd spot in the newspaper and on regional TV talking about diabetes. I love to challenge my diabetes in a variety of insane ways and have walked the Welsh 3 Peaks (this means reaching the summits of the highest mountains in North, Mid and South Wales inside of 16 hours), last year I ran a half marathon and I have walked on burning coals (twice in the last month) all to raise awareness of diabetes and funds for research into type 1.
One cold and damp weekend in the middle of March 2014, twenty-two strangers with a common goal met in North Wales and we began our training for a fantastic expedition. In June we will be forming an international team, 19 of us have T1D, and together we will attempt to break a record for getting the most people with T1D to the summit of Kilimanjaro in a single expedition. The mountain stands almost 6 Kilometres (or 19,340 feet) above sea level and in addition to all of the normal challenges this adventure brings it seems that type 1 diabetes and altitude are not necessarily the best of friends. As we gain altitude the atmospheric pressure will drop and so will the temperature. This means that our blood glucose meters may not work, for those of us using insulin pumps they are only guaranteed to work up to 10,000 feet above sea level. At the summit we will be in arctic like conditions with predicted temperatures of -25°C which means that we have to protect our insulin from freezing at all times. We will be facing all of these challenges in addition to the low oxygen levels that will make breathing difficult and the other effects of altitude that include making us massively insulin resistant. Click here to read our trip itinary.
You are probably asking yourself why would anybody volunteer to do this? I like to think that I am demonstrating how diabetes does not beat me and how by asking the right questions I can achieve my goals in spite of, or even because of, my diabetes. However, my wife thinks that I am having a mid life crisis – I will leave you to judge me. Each of us on this trek has their own personal reasons for participating but collectively we are doing this trip to demonstrate that diabetes does not prevent you from achieving amazing things, we are also raising awareness of T1D through the publicity we are generating (thanks Grumpy) and we are raising funds for JDRF so that they can continue with the vital research that they do which improves the lives of all of us living with type 1 diabetes.
I would be delighted if you would visit my just giving page to read more about my story. Any donation that you feel able to make, regardless of how large or small, will be absolutely awesome and will help JDRF to progress the research into a cure. You can rest assured that the costs of this trip are being met by each of us personally so all donations go directly to JDRF rather than subsidizing an exotic holiday!
Perhaps if I buy Grumpy a few beers in the pub next time we meet he will allow me to keep you all updated on my training, progress and of course the trials and tribulations of the trek itself. Thank you!