A grieving father has completed an Everest challenge in memory of his son.
Paul Pawson, of Choppington, wanted “to get as close to heaven as possible” to feel closer to his 20-year-old son Ryan, who he lost to meningitis two years ago.
Aiming to reach Everest base camp, he took a banner reading Dad’s Trek for Ryan.
The emotional trek was in aid of charity Meningitis Now, which has supported the family since Ryan’s death.
So far Paul has raised £2,600, with donations still being taken via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/paul-pawson1
Paul was in Las Vegas when Ryan became ill in October 2016.
He said: “It was the first holiday that my partner and I had gone on without Ryan.
“To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the trip, and we were just leaving the hotel to come home when I got a phone call from my brother-in law telling me that Ryan wasn’t very well and that he had been rushed to hospital with meningitis.
“We jumped in a taxi and got to the airport as fast as we could. I was going up the escalator to check-in my bags when my brother rang again and told me that Ryan had passed away.
“The first thing I did when I got home was go to see Ryan in the Chapel of Rest. I received no support at all. The only bit of support I received was when Steve Dayman (founder of Meningitis Now) showed up at my house.
“He was the only person that sat down with us to explain what meningitis is. I found that very helpful because I knew my son had died, but I didn’t know what meningitis was.
“When people asked me what had happened I wanted to be able to tell them.”
Speaking of the challenge, he said: “The day I set off to do the challenge I was petrified, and nothing really scares me. I am not super fit and some of the fittest people I met on the challenge couldn’t do it.
“Why Everest? I was asked. My reason was to get as close to heaven as possible. I needed to feel closer to my son. I also wanted to do it myself, not by helicopter.
“On day two I honestly thought I was going to die. I was on the mountain and I had to stop. I was in so much pain. I was aching and couldn’t breathe because of the altitude.
“There was a rock in front of me, above me and behind me. Something just said in my brain stop, just stop, and I stopped. I said to myself if I take one step back I’m finished, if I take one step forward I will finish it. Without thinking I stepped forward and from that moment I never stopped.”
He added: “The Sherpas would carry our sleeping bags, etc, but I didn’t let anyone carry my banner. I kept that with me at all times. I wanted to carry Ryan to the top. We would stay together.
“The moment you see Everest it is amazing, it is incredible, just beautiful.
“People say you find the strength you need to just do it and Ryan was my strength.”
My mates also got behind me, but in their own way of telling me that I couldn’t do it as they knew that would push me harder to prove them wrong.
“When I got to the top I couldn’t control my emotions. I felt, in the only way that I can describe it, as ‘not empty’. I felt close to Ryan, he was definitely with me, and had been waiting for me to reach the top.
“I was presented with a medal and scarf, which I now hang in Ryan’s bedroom at home. It was such an emotional rollercoaster, and a lot harder to do than I thought it would be. It was Ryan that gave me the inner strength to do it.
“I want people to understand why I did this. I am doing it to raise a pound from everyone so that I can help raise awareness.
“The challenge is for those kids losing limbs and confined to a wheelchair. I want to support them and help the charity in its aim to achieve its vision that ‘one day no one will lose their life to meningitis’. I see the real problem and I really want other people to as well.
“These big challenges are important to me. I need to feel like I am trying to do something to help save other people’s lives, especially the kids that are dying or being disabled because of this horrendous disease.”
Sarah Lockey, community fundraiser for Meningitis Now in the north east, said: “We’re so grateful to Paul for supporting our work in this way and helping us to raise such valuable awareness – what an emotional rollercoaster this has been for him.
“His support will make a real difference to those who are at risk from meningitis and those whose lives have already been changed forever because of it.”
For more information and to donate, visit www.meningitisnow.org