Shelvin Kraemer
Shelvin Kraemer, a South African expatriate from Dubai with a lifelong disability braves the challenge to reach the base camp of Mount Everest. Image Credit:

Dubai: Shelvin Kraemer, 43, a South African expatriate from Dubai with a lifelong disability has just reached the base camp of Mount Everest (5,364 metres, 17,598 feet). Kraemer, who is paralysed on the left side of his body, braved the challenge and came out with flying colours.

Kraemer is suffering from a lifelong condition called hemiplegia, a condition caused by a brain injury that results in a varying degree of weakness, stiffness (spasticity) and lack of control on one side of the body. Owing to his condition, Kraemer cannot use his left arm and does not have full balance in his left leg. He was an aspiring rugby player once, who hoped to be a doctor one day.

Last Sunday, Kraemer scaled the base camp of Mount Everest along with his brother Byron, sister-in-law Yulia and colleague Anton Khersonskyi.

In an interview with Gulf News, Kraemer said it was not an easy climb for him, but he was glad he had the support of his family and a friend and together they reached camp.

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Kraemer suffered a stroke and a broken pelvis. Three days later, he had a brain aneurysm. His parents Ivan and Sharon were told Kraemer was unlikely to survive the crash.

Kraemer’s journey

In 1978, when Kraemer was 18, he met with a car accident. It was a head-on collision with a car that was coming downhill. “I was on the uphill,” he said.

Kraemer suffered a stroke and a broken pelvis. Three days later, he had a brain aneurysm. His parents Ivan and Sharon were told Kraemer was unlikely to survive the crash.

“But Kraemer was a fighter — as he is even today. He was in an induced coma for three weeks to get the swelling down. We have no idea how he pulled through. The neurologist called Kraemer his miracle patient,” said his mother Sharon.

From weighing 100kg, Kraemer went down to 45kg after the accident. “He was in a wheelchair. He did two years of daily physiotherapy and occupational therapy as he had to learn to do basic things like walking, reading etc. At first, we were told he would not walk at all and would not be able to study further. But he turned it all around.”

For the record, Kraemer had previously climbed Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu.

Strong and determined

His brother Byron, who was with Kraemer during the climb to the Everest base camp, said: “Kraemer is strong, determined, motivated. Nothing gets in his way of living his life to the fullest!”

The journey

Kraemer, who has completed his Honours in Marketing and is a certified chartered accountant, said: “Climbing up to Everest Base Camp has been high on my list of things to do as I wanted to experience the expedition. I knew that the 125km trek would pose quite a challenge for me to overcome.

“I pushed myself as it was something I always wanted to do. The fact that my family was not keen on me doing this because they thought I wouldn’t manage, gave me a little extra motivation to prove that I could! The more someone tells me I can’t do something, the more I want to go out and prove them wrong. And my brother Byron messaging me over a month ago, saying it was time to go and do it, was obviously the final push. I didn’t have much time to prepare, but I always keep fit so it all worked out well.”

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Shelvin Kraemer, a South African expatriate from Dubai poses at his family and friends. Kraemer who has a lifelong disability braves the challenge to reach the base camp of Mount Everest.

Proud family

Byron, who is immensely proud of his brother, said: “We met a doctor on our way to the base camp and she noticed immediately my brother’s condition. She could not believe he was attempting a base camp climb with his hemiplegia.”

His mother Sharon said: “I cannot tell you how proud I am of all my children. They have been there for each other, supporting and pushing each other through thick and thin and we are such a close-knit family. I keep my children close at all times as you never know what tomorrow will bring. I learnt that after Kraemer’s accident.”

Message to the world

Kraemer added: “Adventure to me means living your life to the fullest by challenging yourself and experiencing new things. I almost died in a car accident at the age of 17, in 1996. I quickly learnt that life is very short and that you need to get out there and try everything you can while you still can.”

“Don’t let your disability or what others tell you limit your life or your expectations of yourself. Like anyone else, you can achieve anything you put your mind to,” said Kraemer.

He further said: “I played golf in the South African disabled Golf Association league back home and there were some extremely disabled players who would give most able-bodied players a run for their money on the golf course. I also have a few South African Paralympic athlete friends and all of those people believe in themselves and their ability to achieve anything they put their minds to. They don’t limit themselves in any way. But you also need to know that they all train very hard and are super dedicated to achieve their goals. I am the same. I go to the gym and train really hard nearly seven days a week. And I wouldn’t have got to the base camp if I wasn’t as fit or as strong as I am.”