Men Return from Mountain Climb to Benefit Epilepsy

April 6, 1999

Three Winston-Salem men are home after attempting to climb the highest mountain in the western hemisphere to raise money for the Epilepsy Information Service at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

With pledges still coming in, the team has raised almost $30,000, surpassing its goal of $23,000. The service is a national toll-free phone line that answers questions about epilepsy and its treatments, provides educational materials and gives patients and their families a chance to talk through their fears and concerns. It answers 7,000 calls a year.

Richard Jacobson, a third-year student at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, organized the effort, called "Climbing for a Cause." His fellow climbers were Brett Pence, 36, owner of ROC Ltd. Indoor Climbing in Winston-Salem, and Rick Phillips, 35, an employee of the U.S. Postal Service in Greensboro.

Pence was the only team member to reach the summit of Mt. Aconcagua, in the Andes of western Argentina. It took him 15 days to reach the summit and return to base camp. At 22,835 feet, the mountain''s summit is just one mile lower than the summit of Mount Everest. Jacobson and Phillips were forced to abandon their effort because of mountain sickness from the high altitude.

"I had mixed feelings when I summitted," said Pence. "I''d made it but my teammates hadn''t."

Pence said he spent about 40 minutes savoring the view from the mountaintop.

"Every breath will wear you out and I had to keep enough energy to come down," he said.

All three men had signs of altitude sickness – severe headaches, nausea and confusion – early in the climb. Pence''s body adjusted to the altitude, but Jacobson and Phillips continued to have problems. They descended 1,000 feet, hoping they would improve. But Phillips developed

pulmonary edema, a life-threatening condition where fluid fills the lungs.

"The only treatment is to descend," said Jacobson, who accompanied Phillips on the 20-mile hike back to base camp."

Phillips returned home early for treatment and is completely recovered. The three hope to attempt the climb again, but say they''ll go slower in hopes of avoiding the effects of the high altitude.

For information on how to contribute to Climbing for a Cause, call the service at 1-800-642-0500. Or send a check to the Epilepsy Information Service, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, N.C. 27157.


Media Contacts: Karen Richardson, (336) 716-4453 or Jim Steele, (336) 716-3487.

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