A father of four from Derby, whose son was left deaf as a result of meningitis, is preparing to climb Africa’s highest mountain carrying the weight equivalent to his son on his back to raise money for the Meningitis Research Foundation.
James Vincent, 41, from Borrowash, will go from Saharan heat to sub-zero temperatures, battling the thin air of the mountain peak, as he climbs to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (which stands at 5,895 metres above sea level). All while carrying 20kg on his back to represent the weight of his son, George.
George was just three when he contracted bacterial meningitis, which has resulted in permanent hearing loss. He woke up poorly in December 2021 with a fever, loss of appetite and was extremely lethargic. Instinct told his mum, Kelly, that something wasn’t quite right and when medication failed to bring his temperature down she rushed him straight to hospital.
Doctors suspected meningitis and within 90 minutes he was put on medication to fight the disease, which ultimately saved his life. The family were later told George was lucky to have survived, as he had the highest rate of infection the doctor had ever seen and they were an hour away from losing him. It’s been a long road to recovery for George, who three weeks after leaving hospital, had a seizure as a result of meningitis, caused him to lose his hearing. In April 2022, he had cochlear implants and is now making good progress and is learning to walk and talk again.
James said he felt “helpless” when his son was taken ill and had little knowledge of meningitis or the devastating impact it causes.
“I knew nothing about meningitis,” he said. “I knew something about a rash and a glass but George didn’t have those symptoms and there are so many more, but often people aren’t aware of them.”
James, a human resources director for the ADNOC Group, who splits his home between Derby and Abu Dhabi, now wants to raise vital funds and awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease to help save others.
“As a Dad I’ve never felt more helpless,” he said. “As a parent, you want to fix your child and meningitis is such a brutal disease that I’ve not been able to do that, so I have felt quite redundant. That’s why I am climbing Kilimanjaro, with the weight of my son on my back. When he’s older, I want to show George that no matter what challenges are thrown at you, you can accomplish anything. Also if we are able to help, even just one family, so they don’t have to go through what we’ve been through, that would be amazing.”
James is now preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Meningitis Research Foundation which funds lifesaving research and provides advocacy and support for families affected by meningitis.
Setting off on the 6th August, following the Marangu Route, it will take six days to reach the summit of the mountain and James will be joined by family friends, Craig Drew and Gareth Collins.
The trio has already raised more than £6,000. They are hoping to reach £10,000 with the help of eight more of James friends, who in September will be climbing Snowden three times each, to cover the equivalent distance of Kilimanjaro, each with 20kg on their backs.
Ian Beningfield, Head of Fundraising for Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “Meningitis can affect anyone, anywhere at any time and, as George’s story shows, it’s a race against time from the moment the disease strikes. It’s vital to trust your instincts and be able to recognise the signs so you can seek medical advice immediately.
“We are delighted that James and all his friends have chosen to support our charity. We wish them all the best for their challenges and we look forward to seeing James conquer Kilimanjaro in what promises to be the experience of a lifetime.”
To sponsor James and his friends visit: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/20kgChallenge
If you want to learn more about meningitis or are interesting in taking on a fundraising challenge for the charity visit our fundraising page.