What does suffering from tuberculosis (TB) and climbing Kilimanjaro have in common?
While scaling the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5 895 metres one might experience shortness of breath, nausea and hallucinations.
These are just some of the symptoms and side effects of TB and its treatment.
A clinical psychologist at Brooklyn Chest Hospital, Leigh Rynhoud (40), will attempt to conquer the mountain in September and raise funds for the hospital, particularly for the treatment of deadly strains of TB.
The Bothasig resident says the funds will be used for two projects, namely visitor transport and a work-skills project.
“I know how important support from the patient’s family is and some of them cannot afford to come for a visit. As for the work-skills project, some of the reasons why people end up getting TB include not eating healthily or not looking after themselves appropriately. To just release them from hospital and put them in the same situation after a year of fighting the illness doesn’t help. They must learn something new,” she explains.
The hospital treats about 250 patients who suffer from Extremely Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB).
In Rynhoud’s professional capacity, she faces a proverbial Kilimanjaro every day.
She has to motivate patients who are staring death in the face.
“During therapy I would sometimes tell the patient to look at Table Mountain. I would say: ‘You can’t wish yourself to the top. All you can do is try. And even while you walk around the hospital grounds, if that is your training for climbing it, it is still training for climbing that mountain’,” continues Rynhoud.
So, in order to raise funds and motivate her patients, she has decided to climb Kilimanjaro.
“It could take a patient up to a year to overcome TB, so my journey started on TB Day on 25 March and will end a year later,” she says.
Rynhoud will be paying for the trip herself, so all the money raised will go straight to the hospital. The success of her journey depends on people out there donating money for a good cause.
According to her, people gladly donate money for cancer or HIV/Aids, but they are not so considerate when it comes to TB.
One of these reasons, according to Rynhoud, is that people tend to underestimate the disease. Which leads to the question, how serious is TB really?
She sums up the problem in her blog (www.kileighmanjarovstb.blogspot.com): “According to the WHO, approximately 8,7 million people became ill with TB in 2011, 1,4 million people died and 10 million children were left orphaned after their parents succumbed to this disease worldwide. It is estimated that in the 22 high burden countries there are 10 million people living with active TB. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest proportion of new cases per population in the world. In 2011 it was estimated that there were nearly 30 000 people in the Cape Town metro area suffering from TB.”

To donate go to http://www.tbhivcare.org and click on donate and then on the Kileighmanjaro.vs.TB link.