for sandra heiner, joining a fundraising trek to Everest base camp was a life-changing experience

“It’s pretty amazing looking at it. I just wanted to stay in that moment for a while.”

That’s how Sandra Heiner describes the feeling of making it to Everest Base Camp and gazing upon the tallest mountain on earth in May this year.

Sandra joined 24 other adventurous souls on an Inspired Adventures trek through Nepal to Base Camp to raise money for Interplast.

For Sandra, who lives in Queensland, it was her first experience of such an adventure, and it was inspired in part by her infant son, Mac.

When she first heard about the Nepal trek, Sandra had been back at work with Johnson & Johnson Medical for a mere eight weeks after 12 months maternity leave.

“I knew about other treks but I’d not put my hand up for them,” she said. “This time I felt like I was looking at the world a little bit differently because I had a young one. And I’d had the head space to think about what I want to do to make the world a better place.

“Interplast is a charity that I’ve always been passionate about and always had an interest in because plastics and reconstructive surgery was my favourite type of surgery while I was in the operating theatre. I loved that I could make a difference, and you could see the surgery making a difference then and there.”

Given that she had to juggle full-time work, training for the trek and being a single mum, Sandra had to get creative for her fundraising.

“My campaign was all about decluttering your life and getting rid of things that you no longer have love for,” she said. “I was encouraging people to go online and sell stuff and donate the money to Interplast,” she said.

The trekkers began their adventure by joining a visiting Interplast team at our partner hospital in Kathmandu, the Kirtipur Hospital, to learn more about our work.

“It was brilliant,” said Sandra. “We had two tours.  One of the nurses that had come over with Interplast took us through different areas of the hospital and talked us through what Interplast was doing for the week. We also spent some time with a physiotherapist.

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“We met one patient, a young boy who wasn’t able to smile. They did some nerve repair on him that enabled him to smile, which was pretty amazing, because he wouldn’t have been able to have that before. His life is forever changed.

“When you’re looking at the patients that the team touched that week, it’s pretty incredible.

You could see where the money went,” she said.

Inspired by what they had seen, the trekkers then hit the trail to Everest Base Camp. Sandra said the experience was more than she could have hoped for.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. The outlook of what you could see was extraordinary,” she said. “The vistas change but they’re all equally as beautiful. It’s just magnificent.”

Sandra said the views of the rugged Himalayan scenery were completely different each day depending on the weather, with highlights including beautiful mountain villages appearing out of the landscape as they came around corners, or tantalising glimpses of Everest as the clouds lifted briefly.

One memory stands out for her. One morning the team left their campsite at 3am to climb higher and watch the sunrise over Mt Everest. While they were waiting in the dark and cold for the sun to come up, “you could see climbers with headlamps moving on Mt Everest,” she said.

Sandra said to be so close to the world’s tallest mountain was astounding.

“It does capture you in the moment where you’re thinking that it’s pretty remarkable that I’m getting to look at this. And the fact that we got there on our own feet rather than just taking a helicopter!

“It’s a feeling of accomplishment – I’m really here!”

Sandra says she has forged some deep friendships with some of the other trekkers, and would very much recommend the experience of taking on a fundraising trek for Interplast.

“Yes, absolutely. I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “When you’re going in such a big group, each day you could talk to someone different, you never got sick of each other, it was just a really good time. I’m really happy I went for it.”

Our Everest Trekkers raised more than $250,000 for Interplast. The money raised from our amazing trekkers over the past few years is vital for helping us to continue to change futures across the Asia Pacific. You can get involved – join one of fundraising activities!