A Midland businessman who could hardly walk has climbed the world’s highest mountain after trialling a "miracle drug" at a Staffordshire hospital.
Spinal disease patient Andew Hodgkinson found it difficult to hobble with a walking stick to the end of his street, let alone climb a mountain.
But after being treated with new drug Enbrel at Cannock Chase Hospital, the father-of-two has found that the sky really was the limit – as he trekked more than 5,000 metres up the world’s highest mountain.
The 45-year-old, of Newport Road, Coton, near Gnosall, in Staffordshire, has suffered for more than two decades with rare painful inflammatory illness Ankylosing Spondylitis, which causes the spine to fuse leading to severe stiffness and immobility.
When his condition started to deteriorate, doctors decided to offer Andrew ground-breaking injections of Enbrel, being trialled at the hospital’s rheumatology department last year.
And the drugs worked so well, Andrew has now been able to climb to Mount Everest’s base camp.
“The views from the highest point were phenomenal,” said Andrew. “When I got up there I was lucky enough to have about 15 minutes sitting down on my own to take it all in, it was incredible.
“It’s really thanks to Cannock Chase Hospital that I’m able to attempt such adventures.”
Andrew, a partner at Gnosall’s Banktop Garage, was so grateful to medics that he even wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Thanks to Cannock Chase Hospital’ during his momentous but arduous trek.
“I already had a cold when I went out there which then turned into flu. Although the cough wore me out, my back gave me no problems.
“I took my Enbrel with me and injected myself while I was out there.
“We were carrying 40lb each on our backs whilst climbing and we were walking for four to six hours a day. I’ve ended up losing a stone in weight.”
Ankylosing Spondylitis is a rare inflammatory disease affecting the joints between the vertebrae of the spine, but there is no cure and patients rely on physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain.
Drug Enbrel has recently been passed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a treatment for patients. Dr Tom Sheeran, consultant rheumatologist, said: “We have been involved in many pivotal trials.
“Enbrel is part of the revolution in drug therapies that everyone is talking about so I am pleased that we could offer Andrew the drug earlier in the trial.
“These new drugs ‘biologic agents’ target specific proteins involved in inflammation. Enbrel blocks a protein called tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and belongs to a family of drugs collectively called ‘Anti-TNF drugs’, which have been a fantastic success in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
“We’re delighted that, through the care that Andrew Hodgkinson has received at our hospital over many years and the remarkable improvement he has made through taking Enbrel, he is now able to make such an expedition as climbing up Everest.”