Kilimanjaro climb in memory of friend’s baby

Julia Sproull practises for her ascent. Picture: Greg Macvean

Julia Sproull practises for her ascent. Picture: Greg Macvean

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A mum-of-two is to scale one of the world’s highest peaks in memory of her friend’s baby who died at just three weeks old.

Julia Sproull, 41, from Balerno, is raising money for the charity SANDS by climbing to the top of Mount 
Kilimanjaro.

Her friend Nicola Welsh lost her son, Theo, in 2009 due to a rare medical condition.

Both women had been expecting their second babies at the same time, but instead Nicola was attending a funeral for Theo when Julia was on her way to hospital in labour.

Julia said: “Because Nicola’s baby was due so close to my mine, I couldn’t have been more aware how easy it could have been me and it didn’t feel fair.”

Nicola has now set up a group with SANDS, who help families who have lost a baby, to hold regular support 
meetings.

Julia said it was essential that support be provided to parents who have experienced the loss of a child.

She said: “Her life changed in an instant and I am full of admiration for the way she has struggled and coped with her grieving.

“I’m thankful that an 
organisation such as SANDS was there for her and amazed that she is now able to give support to other parents through the organisation.

“I wanted to be there for Nicola when she lost her baby but it was difficult when I had my own baby in my arms.”

The council worker, who was born in Sierra Leone and whose grandfather worked in Tanzania as a station master during the war, said she picked the challenge because she loves hill walking.

But she faces the risk of altitude sickness, which is one of the reasons only 40 per cent of climbers manage to get to the summit of the Tanzanian 
volcano.

The illness causes headache, stomach illness and dizziness and in extreme cases, can be fatal.

The keen hillwalker said: “Medication is available but from what I have understood it can mask the symptoms meaning you may continue up the mountain when you shouldn’t.”

Having been training with regular trips up the Pentland Hills, Julia will leave Scotland on September 11 – her 42nd birthday – and begin her six-day climb on September 13.

Operations manager at SANDS Lothian, Dorothy Maitland, said: “It’s a wonderful gesture from Julia to do this, not just for SANDS but also in memory of Theo.

“We’re all delighted with her efforts.”