Senior plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for a cause after graduation
A 19,341-foot climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is the task advertising and communication senior Alex Byers will take on after graduation. Byers is more than familiar with juvenile diabetes.
At the age of 11, Byers’ blood sugar was more than 700 milligrams per deciliter — a normal range for someone with diabetes is between 80 and 130 milligrams per deciliter, according to the American Diabetes Association. His mountainous high blood sugar meant he could not eat for 24 hours, to help it slowly drop back to normal.
For three months after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Byers had to receive a shot of insulin every time he ate. After the three month period he was allowed an insulin pump, which he still uses today.
“As an 11-year-old … shots were a really bad thing,” Byers said. “I remember telling myself, ‘Wait so I have to give myself a shot after every time I eat?’”
Byers’ mother currently works for JDRF, making giving back to the foundation even more special.
Each year about 40,000 people are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, according to JDRF's website. Although he constantly has to monitor his blood sugar, Byers said he doesn’t want people to think he isn’t capable of doing great things.
“Ten years later and I’m still fine,” Byers said. “Maybe I won’t be a football player, but I’m about to climb a mountain.”
Now as Byers’ collegiate career comes to an end, he is making sure he is in shape to reach the top. With his active lifestyle, Byers said he believes he will reach the top.
“I knew I wanted to do something crazy after I graduated, but I wanted to give back as well,” Byers said.
Managing his diabetes is a major concern for him during his climb. Byers is also concerned with altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can occur in anyone because of a lack of oxygen in the thin atmosphere. Various symptoms include headache, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping.
“I think it’s gonna be a day by day process going up the mountain,” Byers said. “You don’t want to all of a sudden go really low (on blood sugar) and hold up the whole group.”
Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, according to worldwildlife.org. A free-standing mountain means it is not a part of a mountain range.
Every year about 25,000 people attempt the climb and about two-thirds are successful.
“Just go slow, make sure you’re doing everything right, make sure my blood sugar is right,” Byers said. “I’m gonna reach the top, I know I am.”
Byers said he is feeling the pressure to succeed.
“Now that I have the fundraiser set up, I have to summit,” Byers said. “I love this university — for four years it has been my home and I can’t wait to reach the top repping (representing) Michigan State and juvenile diabetes."
To donate to Byers’ cause, visit the JDRF website.