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updated: 5/24/2014 4:39 PM

Vernon Hills man to climb Kilimanjaro for charity

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  • Eric Oberwise

      Eric Oberwise

 
 

In August, college student Eric Oberwise plans to cross "climb a mountain" off his bucket list in a big way.

Several months ago, the 22-year-old engineering student from Vernon Hills started "Raising Kilimanjaro", a campaign to raise $20,000 for an organization that helps improve the quality of life for the disabled.

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But the effort is more than a slogan, as Oberwise and two companions -- one of them disabled -- will attempt to scale the 19,341-foot peak, the highest in Africa and among the highest in the world.

On Saturday morning, Oberwise leaves for Malawi, Africa, to begin a 10-week stint with four other students from the University of Dayton in a program designed to use their engineering skills for humanitarian practices.

"We want to create sustainable technologies -- things that are relevant to the area and are supportable by people living there," he said.

The climb for charity to follow that program is really for people "who are conquering their own mountain," said Oberwise, a University of Dayton student who has endured an ailment that changed his perspective.

It was during a drive from Dayton to Cincinnati on Sept. 11, 2012, that the "really healthy guy" began experiencing severe stomach pain. He drove to a hospital and was told it might be a stomach ulcer or terrible indigestion. Because of the severity of the pain, he said, he was given morphine.

Back in Dayton after four days of no sleep or food, Oberwise made another hospital visit and was told he needed surgery immediately. The diagnosis was intussusception, a serious disorder in which one part of the intestine slides into another.

This telescoping effect blocks food or fluid and cuts off the blood supply to the affected part of the intestine. Half of his large intestine was removed.

Oberwise said his goals changed.

"When you're face to face with mortality, things become infinitely more clear about what you appreciate," he said.

His focus has shifted to biomedical issues, and he became involved with May We Help, a charitable organization where volunteers invent, modify or adapt devices to improve the quality of life for those with mental and physical disabilities, Oberwise said.

"I was going to be there (Africa) for the summer and I said, `I want to do something more than engineering,'" he said, describing the logistics of how the charitable climb came to be.

Chris Kubik, project director at May We Help, got onboard. The third climber is Katie Taylor, the daughter of one of Oberwise's professors, who after a serious skiing accident was told she wouldn't walk again. She now walks with a severe limp.

Though he has "never climbed anything of any significance," Oberwise has been in training and says he will be ready.

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