STUNNING SIGHT Patrick McNulty's photo of the sun setting on Mount Everest, from the village of Kalapathar.
Though partially paralysed after a stroke at 38, Achill man Patrick James McNulty was determined to see Everest
On a chilly evening last month, Patrick James McNulty trekked to 5,545 metres in the Himalayan mountains to watch the sunset over Mount Everest, and in doing so full-fill a lifelong ambition.
The 130k journey to the base camp of Mount Everest was one of perseverance, courage and defiance and a world away from the evening of January 26, 2018, when his life changed forever.
One minute the Achill man had been cooking dinner in his Essex home, the next he found himself lying on his back and wondering why he could not get up off his kitchen floor.
“I didn’t really understand what was happening,” he told The Mayo News last week. “I was lying on the floor and couldn’t get back up again.
“My sister, Maria, and my wife’s friend were in the house at the time. To me I was talking like normal but to them I was sounding drunk and slurred. They kept saying to the person on the phone I had a stroke. I couldn’t believe what they were saying because I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me.”
Patrick was 38 at the time when doctors confirmed he suffered a stroke brought on by an undiagnosed blood disorder which resulted in a build up of iron which eventually clotted.
The initial prognosis was frightening.
“They couldn’t stop my blood from clotting… Two weeks after the stroke I had a clot in each lung and one in my leg, so it wasn’t good,” said the now 43-year-old, who is originally from Cashel on Achill.
Doctors eventually stopped the clotting, but Patrick was left partially paralysed down his left side. He spent the next several months in the Homerton Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit in London.
“The first four months were very difficult. I had to learn how to walk again and start over. I was very weak and could not do a lot for myself. It was very tough but I was determined to get better,” he explained.
Goals and motivation
Patrick’s determination to get better was spurred on by the fact his son, Paddy, was only six years old at the time and just three months previously, his wife Christina suffered a bad fall down the stairs of their family home in Romford, Essex.
“We had tough year that year,” he says as he reflects back on his wife’s accident.
“She was really lucky, because two weeks later she walked out of hospital fine. She had broken bones and a hole in her head, but the operation went well. She was not left with any paralysis and she didn’t need any rehab.”
Not one for self-pity Patrick was determined to get better and set himself goals, including getting back to work in his job as a logistics manager with construction company JRL Group, owned by Bohola man John Reddington.
“It was a long journey. After rehab I spent another year in the gym trying to build up my strength so I could get back to work.
“It was tough getting back to work but they [employers] have been fantastic for me. I would go in for two days a week for a few hours a day and then build it up to three days and then four days a week. Every year I was building it up another day until I got back to five days a week,” he said.
Among the goals he set for himself was to get to the base camp of Mount Everest within five years.
“I’ve always been interested in Mount Everest and always wanted to go to the Himalayas. It [the stroke] made me more determined to get there.”
Even with all the rehab, Patrick is still partially paralysed down his left side with no function in his knee and ankle, leaving him with a severe limp. Despite this, he felt at the start of this year he was strong enough to go through with the plan.
“I had great support from my wife and family and the company I worked with,” he said, adding that he also wanted to give something back to the Homerton Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit.
“I decided to try to raise some money for the rehab unit where I spent four months. If I had not gone to that rehab unit I don’t think I would be in the same position I am in now. They helped with everything not only when I was in there but they would come to the house for about four or five months afterwards. They helped with everything.”
The trip was booked with the Himalayan Wonders company and his training consisted of walking between 8/10km per day. When he was home in Achill in the summer he would walk up to the statue on Minaun Heights.
He arrived in Nepal at the start of October and set out for base camp on October 7. The group he was trekking with included three Americans, an Austrian and two Brazilians (one of whom shocked Patrick when she said she was a regular visitor to Achill).
Base Camp is around 5,500 metres above sea level, and despite the hardships and the difficulties involved, Patrick said he was always confident he would make it.
“There were a few bits that were more difficult than I expected, but most of it wasn’t too bad. I was walking along tracks which are no worse than walking on a bog road, but with a constant incline all the time.”
They reached the base camp on October 15.
“I was confident I would make it. When I got there I knew there was nothing going to stop me. When you are raising money for charity it gives you that extra drive.
“It felt good to reach base camp but when you get up there you realise it’s just a rock and nothing much. You can’t actually see Everest. I was a bit disappointed with that so we had to go up another mountain [Kalapathar] in the last village to get a good glance of it at sunset. When Everest finally came into view, I realised then the journey was well worth it.”
Having safely returned home, Patrick knows that he will have to live with the affects of his stroke but he remains determined that it will not hold him or his family back in life. “You can’t let it defeat you… there are plenty of people who have had bad things happen to them and they get up and get on with their life. That is my attitude… you got to keep going and moving forward. I won’t let the stroke hold me back.”
To support Patrick’s climb and make a donation to the Homerton Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit visit the website www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-mcnulty1