A man who has difficulty walking recently hiked to the top of the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.
Joseph Grunfeld, 62, was born with a heart murmur, has undergone three back surgeries, and suffered a stroke that left one arm numb, according to the New York Post.
A violent mugging three years ago injured his knee, and he now has trouble walking normally following the surgery to repair it.
However, the New Yorker joined a group of 27 others with physical challenges to climb to the top of the dormant volcano, whose elevation is 19,341 feet.
“Every day, people with disabilities face many personal mountains to climb, some visible but many hidden,” said James Lassner, executive director of Friends of Access Israel (FAISR), the group that organized the climb.
Grunfeld, who also has Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), worked with a personal trainer to prepare him for the hike and lost 20 pounds in the process.
RA is an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and inflammation when a person’s confused immune system attacks the lining of the joints, called the synovium, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
“That’s the tissue lining around a joint that produces a fluid to help the joint move smoothly. The inflamed synovium gets thicker and makes the joint area feel painful and tender, look red and swollen and moving the joint may be difficult,” the website read.
Despite battling altitude sickness, hallucinations, and severe breathing problems, Grunfeld, along with 25 of his fellow climbers, reached the summit.
The most common reason why most people give up before making it to the top is “attitude sickness,” according to ClimbMountKilimanjaro.com.
However, once Grunfeld started climbing, he never looked back.
“It was all a blur, but I did it. It’s all attitude. I was unbelievably inspired by the others with major injuries. These people are severely disabled, yet go out there and overcome great challenges,” he stated, adding, “I paid a lot of doctors to tell me no. I usually listen to them, but not this time.”
Now, Grunfeld is planning a hike up Machu Picchu with his wife, Gina, in the near future.
“I’m revved up,” he concluded.