A group of five servicemen who have been injured during tours of duty have left theUK on their mission to conquer Mount Everest. Over the next few months they will be facing not only a gruelling and dangerous climb that would tax even the healthy and able-bodied, but also spending time apart from their friends and loved ones.
The sacrifice will be worth it, however, as the charity organising the climb, Walking with the Wounded, raises money to retrain servicemen and women who have been injured in the line of duty.
Martin Hewitt, the Expedition Manager and an injured former soldier with the Parachute Regiment, is enthusiastic about the work of the charity and the challenge the team are embarking on: ‘I hope that through this expedition we can demonstrate to our public how determined our injured soldiers are to overcome their horrific injuries and move on with life post-service.’
Another of the servicemen, Chris Gwilt from Dorchester, taking part in the expedition, was injured by shrapnel and left permanently deaf in both ears when a rocket propelled grenade exploded behind him. He joined the Territorial Army in 2007, and was deployed in 2008. He was hurt in Afghanistanin 2009 while serving with the Two Rifles.
Chris, in a recent interview with the Birmingham Mail, told them that initially he wasn’t too worried about his hearing.
‘At first I didn’t realise my hearing loss was permanent. I thought it would come back. But [my consultant] told me after about a week that I was permanently deaf. I was worried for the future, that I wouldn’t be able to hear music again.’
Richard Irving, the consultant who treated Chris, suggested he try a cochlear implant, funded by the military, to help him regain his hearing.
‘I wasn’t convinced it would help me that much at first,’ Chris told the paper, ‘that was until I met someone who had one. They communicated with me like a person with normal hearing.’
After the operation, Mr Irving was very pleased with Chris’ progress, and said ‘[it] has been quite remarkable because his hearing had gone so suddenly and he had the implant quite quickly meaning he hadn’t forgotten the memory of sound. This produced some of the best results we have ever had with this implant.’
Now Chris can hear again, he is relishing the challenge of scaling the highest mountain in the world, and is keen to help a military charity after the great care and support he has received.