Alex Lewis is taking on Ras Dashen mountain: a grueling, 4,620-meter scramble up Ethiopia's highest mountain - an impressive feat for any hiker. However, this story has an extra special element. Lewis is a quadruple amputee and will be tackling the mountain on a bespoke hand-pedal buggy.
In a video report by the BBC, Lewis, 38, shares the emotional details of his upcoming challenge and the circumstances that led to him losing all four of his limbs and part of his face.
In 2013, Lewis contracted Strep A, and what followed was a long and gruesome battle with the infection. It led to Toxic Shock Syndrome, Septicemia, and Necrotising Fasciitis and spread to his arms, leg, and face.
In a medical first, the father of one underwent a skin graft around his mouth and medical tattooing for his lips after a part of his face also had to be amputated due to gangrene. He is reportedly the first to ever have surgery to have both his top and bottom lips covered at the same time by a single piece of skin.
The BBC video clearly shows Lewis’ determination to summit the African mountain. “Whether I have to shuffle up the last 300m, whether we have to be hoisted up, it doesn’t matter,” he said, adding they will make it to the peak, “by hook or by crook.”
He will be helped in his mission by a ground-breaking piece of equipment: a buggy he can pedal using his prosthetic arms to generate electrical energy that powers the back wheels. This bespoke buggy is much more efficient than a standard hand-pedal model and can even climb steep hills and reach speeds of 35 miles per hour.
Lewis will be setting off on his challenging adventure in January with a strong team alongside him. Students from the University of Southampton who helped design this bespoke buggy will accompany him on the two-week expedition. One excited student, Christopher Charalambous, told reporters the trip is going to “change my life [and] forever remain with me.”
Lewis has been doing some pretty intensive training in the lead-up to the expedition, including practicing rock climbing to prepare him for the parts of the mountain that are unsuitable for the buggy.
“I never thought I’d be in a position where I was going to learn to mountain climb,” says Lewis - an understandable statement given the huge odds stacked against him.
As unlikely and daring as this undertaking may seem, it is not the first time Lewis has defied the odds in impressively active feats. Since his amputations, he has also kayaked 210 miles in Greenland, been skydiving with fellow amputees, and set up a trust in his name to raise money for expensive prosthetics and ongoing rehabilitation costs.
With so many achievements and milestones already under his belt, and a supportive team and equipment behind him, it seems pretty likely that Ras Dashen will be the next success story on this inspiring man’s journey.
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