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  Crohn's Patient Robert Hill Reaches Peak of Antarctica's Tallest Mountain


- Accomplishment Marks Fifth in Seven Summits Campaign for Intestinal Disease Awareness -

Crohn's disease patient Robert (Rob) Hill has summited Vinson Massif, Antarctica's tallest mountain. Hill's team began the climb on January 12th and successfully reached the mountain's peak at 9:00 P.M. G.M.T (4:00 P.M. E.S.T.) on January 19th after eight days of erratic weather and sub-freezing temperatures.

The expedition, sponsored by ConvaTec, a world-leading manufacturer of ostomy and wound care products, marks the fifth in Hill's quest to become the first Crohn's patient and ostomate to scale the Seven Summits, the tallest peaks on the seven continents. By taking on the Seven Summits, Hill hopes to show other people living with intestinal diseases or an ostomy that they should still live their lives to the fullest.

"There was a time when I could barely climb up the stairs from the debilitating pain of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). So to think that I would ever see Antarctica, let alone climb Vinson Massif, has been a dream come true," says Hill. "Not everyone living with IBD needs to climb mountains, only to live their lives to the fullest."

Nearly 1.5 million Americans are affected by Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease), and approximately 750,000 Americans are living with an ostomy due to either IBD, colorectal cancer or other chronic bowel or bladder diseases.

Fewer than 100 people over the past 20 years have successfully scaled the Seven Summits. The feat is hard on anyone, much less someone without their colon, the organ that is primarily responsible for absorbing water and nutrients into the body.

Each climb Hill makes takes a toll on his body. Keeping up his nutrition and hydration is paramount, but even still, he typically loses up to 15 percent of his body weight on each climb.

Rob's Story -- No Guts, Know Glory!

At 23-years of age, Rob was a strong, healthy athlete who had never been sick in his life. Then, confronted with daily diarrhea and sustained, stabbing abdominal cramps, he was eventually diagnosed with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

As his condition grew worse, Hill lost 80 pounds and a year and a half later his large intestine was removed through an ostomy procedure. "When it came down to losing my colon or losing my life, it wasn't a hard decision to make," he says.

Now, 12 years later, Hill is mid-way through a five-year campaign he calls "No Guts -- Know Glory!" to become the first Crohn's patient and ostomate to climb the Seven Summits. The campaign grew from Rob's love of sport and the outdoors, pursuits he returned to with newfound dedication not long after surgery.

To date, Hill has successfully scaled five of the Seven Summits -- with Vinson Massif being the coldest climb to date (average daytime temperature of -20 degrees F). Conditions on Vinson Massif were so unpredictable that the weather would change from clear and sunny skies to blinding snowstorms in a matter of minutes. But to Hill, what separated Vinson Massif from the other Seven Summits is the complete isolation of the mountain and breathtaking views of the Antarctic landscapes.

For his inspirational efforts, Hill recently was recognized by the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and ConvaTec with an honorary award from the Great Comebacks(R) Program, which, for more than twenty years, has given special recognition to those whose life stories inspire people living with an ostomy.

"I know from experience that Crohn's and colitis can be debilitating and make you feel very inhibited -- physically and emotionally," says Hill. "If you are living with these diseases or going through surgery it's important to know that you can get your life back -- you shouldn't let it define you."

Today, Rob continues to break down barriers for people living with intestinal diseases, letting them know that "it's okay to talk about these conditions and not something to hide behind." This year, Rob will be traveling to CCFA affiliates nationwide, speaking to patient groups about his own experiences and encouraging people to get out and conquer their own personal summits.

Small Steps, Giant Strides Toward IBD Awareness

Hill began his No Guts -- Know Glory! quest in 2002 and has now scaled five of the Seven Summits:

  * June 2002, Mt. Elbrus, 18,481 feet (5,633 m), Russia/Georgia, Europe

  * October 2003, Mt. Kilimanjaro, 19,339 feet (5,963 m), Tanzania, Africa

  * January 2004, Aconcagua, 22,840 foot (6,962 m), Argentina, South America

  * June 2005, Denali/Mt. McKinley, 20,320 feet (5,895 m), Alaska, U.S.A.,
    North America

  * January 2006, Vinson Massif, 16,067 feet (4,897 m), Antarctica.

 
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