This man climbed Everest to fight the incurable disease devastating his family
For four generations, Lysle Turner’s family has suffered from Huntington’s disease. The incurable affliction causes a person’s physical and cognitive abilities to progressively deteriorate. Sufferers can live a difficult 10 to 25 years after the onset of symptoms. This hasn’t stopped Turner from achieving his dreams. The entrepreneur, who is gene negative, became the youngest South African to summit Mount Everest in 2016. At the peak, he carried a South African flag with names of people who had died of Huntington’s. He did it for them, and for his family.
Turner is lucky. Because of the way the gene is passed on, his children will be the first generation in his family guaranteed to be free of the disease, after two centuries of enduring its effects. His climb up Mount Everest paid testament to the past, while bringing hope for the future. “Since I was a child I knew I needed to do this for my family,” Turner says. “Being the youngest South African to summit for me means a whole new lease on life, and for my family something put to bed after 200 years of our family being impacted.” The young businessman founded the Turner Together Foundation in 2012, a non-profit trust that provides support to those affected by Huntington’s. He is also a director at the Huntington’s Disease Youth Organization, an international NPO in aid of youth who are impacted by the disease.
Although Turner summited Everest two years ago, he made his first attempt in 2015. He was forced to abandon that climb by the Nepal earthquake. The resulting avalanche on Everest killed at least 19 sherpas and climbers. Turner was lucky to survive, and helped save those injured. The disaster didn’t stop him from trying again. He hopes to pursue more adventures in the future, but for now is focusing on his studies at the Harvard Business School. However, Mount Everest will always be in the background, a symbol of resilience, courage, and a painful legacy coming to an end.