HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — When a Glastonbury woman set out to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains, she had no idea just how much she would inspire others.
Bethany Hartshorn refuses to let multiple sclerosis stop her active lifestyle.
Hartshorn and her best friend, Amy Remington, have done numerous mud obstacle courses challenges over the years. Then, in 2021 the pair set their sights on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is the highest free standing mountain the world, at 19,341 feet high.
Hartshorn was diagnosed with MS 13 years ago after feeling unusual symptoms.
“I started getting numbness in just my hand, and I was like, well, maybe it’s a pinched nerve or something,” Hartshorn said. “Then, it just started going up and down my whole left side.”
An MRI confirmed her diagnosis of the autoimmune disease.
She now is treated at Trinity Health’s Mandell Center for Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care in Hartford.
Dr. Mary Bailey, her doctor, has expertise in diagnosing and treating people with MS. Bailey said common symptoms include numbness and tingling, along with difficulty walking and vision problems.
Bailey said that due to new oral medications, many patients no longer need to use a walker or a wheelchair.
The oral medication allows Hartshorn to stay active and make her big climb. She said that her MS was not the biggest issue, but rather the high altitude.
“We get up to the top, and we had like a mile left, and it took us an hour and a half to go a mile because that’s how slow I was walking,” she said.
Hartshorn said the final push to the summit started in the middle of the night.
“So, you’re dealing with ‘you can’t see anything for eight hours,’ and then it’s bright and it’s amazing and so I was completely out of it,” she said.
Hartshorn wasn’t just climbing, she was fundraising, carrying with her a flag signed by her many donors for the Mandell Center. She was so tired she barely remembers holding it up at the summit.
During that climb, the “summit sisters” supporters back at the Mandell Center followed their progress daily on a mural on the wall in the hallway.
Now, that flag that was raised at the summit is framed on the wall in that same hallway — something to inspire every patient as they walk by for their MS treatments.
“[It’s] for patients who come here to see when they walk through the center door and they can actually see what these two women have accomplished,” Bailey said.