THEY DID IT! UK and Ethiopian amputee duo ascend Ethiopia’s highest mountain
British quadruple amputee, Alex Lewis, Ethiopian double amputee Emebet Dires, accompanied by the Wild Wheelchairs Project team successfully reached the Ras Dashen Summit at 4,533 metres on 6th October.
Alex had both arms and both legs amputated and underwent extensive skin grafts and facial reconstruction, after contracting strep A toxic shock syndrome, septicaemia and necrotising fasciitis in 2013. Emebet, now 19, was hit by a car at the age of three and lost both her legs from the knee down. She now plays wheelchair basketball, races tricycles and is also keen to take on the challenge.
Arriving in Ethiopia on 27th September, the team were accorded a warm Ethiopian welcome in Bahir Dar by local government officials and Emebet. In a video shared widely on social media, Alex and Emebet are seen doing the Eskista – a traditional Ethiopian dance.
Over the next several days, Alex and Emebet ascended Ethiopia’s highest mountain using a special solar-powered handcycle designed by students from the University of Southampton.
This was no easy feat for the two amputees, especially given the weather conditions – Ethiopia was at the last stages of the rainy season! At one stage, the pair managed to drive their handcycles past a bus stuck in the mud. A few days later, the support team had to carry the handcycles across a river ford in knee-high water.
On 30th October, the team were welcomed to the Embassy for a meeting with Ambassador Fesseha who congratulated them for their monumental achievement and thanked them for choosing Ethiopia for their first expedition. The Ambassador reiterated the Embassy’s support for their future endeavours and extended an invitation to the team to explore other parts of Ethiopia on their next trip.
Briefing the Ambassador, Alex said: “Our expectations [in Ethiopia] were met! It was the most remarkable 17 days I have ever had.” Alex also applauded Emebet, the Ethiopian double amputee who accompanied him on the adventure, adding that she will make a great Ambassador for disability awareness in Ethiopia.
Founded by Alex Lewis Trust and David Collinson, Wild Wheelchairs Project is raising money to finance the construction of a wheelchair manufacturing facility in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, and support ongoing programmes to help the disabled in that region. For further information, visit: http://bit.ly/WildWheelchairsProject.
Alex’s and Emebet’s full journey has been filmed by director Simon Ratigan for a documentary to be screened at a later date.
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