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Adventurer on a mission to be the first person with Parkinson’s to climb Everest

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Alex Flynn is an adventurer on a mission to raise funds and awareness for neurological diseases, by being the first person with Parkinson’s to climb Mount Everest. 

We met him at a conference in Barcelona back in 2019, and resonated with his message about the importance of public awareness and listening to the patient’s voice so much, we made a commitment there and then to sponsor and support him in any way we could. 

Then, lockdown happened, and Alex’s plans were put on pause. 

Undeterred by the physical restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex climbed the equivalent of more than twice the height of Everest, as he undertook a vertical marathon on his stairs at home. 

An adventurer at heart, Alex has raised nearly £400,000 since his diagnosis in 2008 through endurance challenges in extreme conditions around the world. He’s about to head off on another big adventure, where he aims to climb three mountains this year, in preparation for taking on Mt Everest in April 2022. 

He told us: “Parkinson’s robs people of their self worth, of their confidence”. 

“There are so many people out there with neurological diseases and so many feel isolated, alone, ostracised, and made to feel different because people simply don’t understand them. I want to change that. I want to show people what’s possible and raise awareness of the humanity behind the disease.”

Alex wants to give those with neurological diseases hope. He wants them to think, “if Alex can get up Everest, I can get across my living room. I can take on my own personal Everest.” 

His work also raises better awareness of Parkinson’s, a disease where there’s still so much unknown and misunderstood. “For one,” he said, “it’s not an old person’s disease. A two year old boy was diagnosed in 2016, what more proof do we need than that? We need to change public perception.”

Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological disorder in the world, affecting 1 in 13 people across all age groups. Over 140,000 people have Parkinson’s in the UK, with approximately 18,000 diagnosed each year. Alex is using his life to raise awareness and funds for research to find a cure: “I want people to say, ‘I used to have Parkinson’s.’ I am sure they’ll find a cure in my lifetime.”

When asked about his experience as a patient, Alex told us his journey has had some ups and downs. His first consultant was excellent, but when he moved cities, his experience turned sour. “It was horrific. The consultant just wasn’t concerned about me at all. He didn’t listen to my needs or make me feel seen as an individual. He didn’t seem to acknowledge my humanity at all.”

He has since changed consultants within the NHS with support from a friend at Parkinson’s UK. “I want people to know that they can change their consultant. They have a choice in their treatment, and don’t have to stay chained to someone who doesn’t see them or treat them as a human.”

So, what gets him through these challenges? 

“Anger,” Alex said. “I take all my anger and negative experiences and put them through a metaphorical sieve and pull out positivity. Everest will be my biggest challenge yet, and I’ll need to keep my stress under control and myself grounded. 

“Ultimately though, I intend to summit Everest but I am aware that circumstances (weather etc) may prevent this. However, I’m optimistic and try to not worry about reaching the top.  Just giving it my best go, one step at a time, that’s really what it’s all about.”

We’re honoured to sponsor Alex on his next great adventure. When asked about the impact the support of individuals and businesses such as ours has, he told us: “It makes the biggest difference. It’s not just the money, but the fact you believe in me and what I’m trying to achieve. 

“I know you’re fully behind and supporting me all the way.”

You can donate to Alex’s Parkinson’s fund here: gofund.me/18e1a208