Brothers’ challenge to help end killer disease

Ben and Louis Schellenberg
Ben and Louis Schellenberg

A pair of teenagers from Akeley Wood who survived malaria as young children are cycling the length of the country to raise money for a charity that aims to end deaths from the disease.

Ben Schellenberg, aged 19, and his brother Louis, aged 15, caught malaria when their family was living in Tanzania in the 1990s, and Ben nearly died.

The boys’ father, David Schellenberg, is professor of international health nand malaria the the London School of Hygiele and Tropical Medicine and a policy advisor for the charity Malaria No More UK.

Prof Schellenberg and his wife, Jo, moved to Tanzania as health researchers in the 1990s, when Ben was one year old.

Ben was just three when he caught malaria.

Despite the best treatment available at the time, his fever developed into severe pneumonia and his lung collapsed.

Ben was airlifted to a hospital in Nairobi for emergency surgery, while his life hung in the balance,

Prof Schellenberg said: “We stayed on the ward, watching, waiting, calling our parents and preparing ourselves for the worst.

“We sat by the door of the operating theatre and I remember our complete sense of hopelessness.

“I’ll never forget the moment when the door flung open and the surgeon came out, triumphantly holding a kidney dish with one third of Ben’s right lung and a lot of the poison they had drained from his chest.

“We were shocked, but relieved beyond belief he had made it through the operation.”

To the family’s relief, Ben made a strong recovery.

But three years later, two-year-old Louis caught the disease. By this time, malaria medicines had become much more effective and Louis was cured within a few days.

Ben, who is studying aeronautical engineeeering at Bristol University, said: “My first ever memory is after the operation in Nairobi, when I was getting better.

“I know I’m seriously lucky to be alive and want to do all I can to help give other young people the chance they deserve to live healthy lives and fulfil their potential.”

The brothers, who have both been students at the Royal Latin School, are cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for the charity Malaria No More.

After setting off on Monday, August 12, they plan to complete the ride on Monday, August 26, coinciding with World Mosquito Day on Tuesday this week.

So far, Ben and Louis have raised £1,193.99 of their £2,066 target. Donate via www.virginmoneygiving.com/Schellenberg or follow them at www.facebook.com/LELIJOGD.