Retired Hartlepool nurse is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro while fighting Crohn’s disease

A dedicated nurse who had to step down from the job she loved after battling Crohn’s disease for more than a decade is getting ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 7:00 am
Retired nurse Gill Haran is preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in September.
Retired nurse Gill Haran is preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in September.

Gill Haran, 46, who used to work in Hartlepool was about to turn 25 when she was told she had the illness in 2000.

The diagnosis did not deter Gill from performing her duties, however, and she says being ill herself made her a more empathetic nurse.

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Gill worked as a registered nurse in the NHS for 17 years.

But the condition progressively worsened to a point where she had to make the heartbreaking decision of stepping down from her much-loved job in 2013.

Gill said: "All I ever wanted to be was to be a nurse and be the best nurse that I could to look after my patients and in the end I couldn’t do that anymore because I was too ill myself.“

After leaving her nursing career behind, Gill, who worked as Registered NHS Nurse in Birmingham, Nottingham and Hartlepool, lost her sense of purpose for a while.

This changed when she was chosen to join Matt Wood on his charity trek to Kilimanjaro.

On the high dependency unit in 2016, left, and climbing in preparation for a charity trek to Mount Kilimanjaro, right.

In preparation for the September trip to Tanzania, which is conditional on pandemic restrictions easing, Gill has been exercising regularly to build her muscle strength and, although she overstretched a ligament and had to wear a knee brace, she is not giving up.

She said: "It’s going to give me a much needed boost in self-confidence.

"Although I’m having these ups and downs in my training, I’m not giving up and I know it’s not a full time job, but I think it’s going to make me realise I can achieve things, I can stick to the routine, I can turn up and be reliable and that would mean the world to me, because I hated letting my colleagues down.”

Since her diagnosis Gill, who is from the Belle Vue area of town, has been through five major abdominal surgeries between 2005 and 2016 – with her latest operation leaving her critically ill in a high dependency unit.

Gill with some of Hartlepool's Walking Netball All Stars Team.

Gill said: "When Crohn’s disease is active, it’s the worst thing ever.

"Before my surgeries, every time I ate or drank, I had abdominal pain and that would be from the first sip of water or the first mouthful of food.

"On a typical day when it flared up, I would be going to the toilet about 20 times a day at least.”

Reflecting on the upcoming trip, she added: "It would mean the world to me and to know that I went through needing three people to help me walk three steps on a high dependency unit to being able to get to on of the highest peaks in the world.

"Climbing the summit of Kilimanjaro will let me know that I can achieve things. It just may take me a bit longer than most people and that’s not a bad thing.”

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