Robert Hills Crohns Disease Story from Diagnosis to Summit
In 2008, Robert Hill attempted to summit Mount Everest to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease. But trouble struck early in the climb, jeopardizing Robert’s dream of becoming the first person with an ostomy to scale the world’s highest mountain.
Robert was flown back to his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, to be treated by his own medical team. His doctor determined that Robert had suffered an obstructed bowel. The pains on Everest brought back terrible memories of his Crohn’s diagnosis at age 23.
The Body Attacks Itself
Robert dwindled from a robust 185 pounds to a skeletal 105. At his weakest, the once avid climber, who had been taught as a boy to scale rocks by his father, could barely make it upstairs. It had become an exhausting process: Hold on to the handrail. Step up. Lift the other leg. Rest. His muscle mass gone, every step was painful.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract. The body essentially attacks itself, triggering intense inflammation that wears away digestive organs, particularly the intestine. The cause is still a mystery, although research suggests that genetic and environmental factors play a role. Roughly 700,000 Americans live with Crohn’s disease. There is no known cure.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease belongs to a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract.
When reading about inflammatory bowel diseases, it is important to know that Crohn’s disease is not the same thing as ulcerative colitis, another type of IBD. The symptoms of these two illnesses are quite similar, but the areas affected in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) are different.
Crohn’s most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, but it may affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth to the anus. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon, also called the large intestine.