Crohn’s disease victim wants aides to soar to new heights

Rob Hill has just the thing for Capitol Hill aides who might be climbing the walls this week as Congress heads back into session. The 37-year-old advocate, who has had Crohn’s disease since he was 23, will set up a 16-foot climbing wall later this week in the Rayburn House Office Building to show people what one can do even with this debilitating condition.

“The event is really a way to just attract people’s attention to what I’m doing with my climbing,” Hill said in an interview from his home in Vancouver. “Ultimately [it is] to change people’s minds about living with an ileostomy, an intestinal disease.”

He is on a mission to climb the Seven Summits of the world, and so far he has climbed six, including Mount Kilimanjaro and the Carstensz Pyramid. A Mount Everest climb is planned for this spring.

He explains that climbing is always harder on him than the average person. “I live without my large intestine,” he said. “Absorption of electrolytes is always harder. The key is having good hydration and nutrients.”

Hill’s daily existence is enormously difficult. For the past 14 years, he has had to live with a bag that sits on the outside of his body to collect waste. When he was first diagnosed, he said, it was “really devastating.”

“I went through a lot of different stages of guilt, depression,” he said. “Coming through that, hopefully to a better place, I realized I could step forward and be an example of anyone fac[ing] challenges in life. They are part of you; just don’t let them take over your life.”

Hill’s passion for climbing began at 15, while he was growing up in British Columbia and spending a lot of time camping in the Rockies. He got involved in the Great Comeback program by way of Convatec, the company that makes the products he uses. Great Comeback’s founder is former San Diego Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke, who got sick while playing football and had to have emergency intestinal surgery. He was lucky — doctors were able to build an internal pouch out of his small intestine.

Hill is a global ambassador for Great Comeback. This is the first time that he has come to the Hill with a portable climbing wall. “I’ll be climbing the wall and hopefully encourage other people to climb it,” he said. “It will get pretty boring if I’m the only one climbing it.”

The event will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday in the foyer of Rayburn.


Rep. Jackson Jr. and the hazards of Bluetooth  

Just before the Presidents Day recess, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), known for his perpetual cell phone use, was heard saying the following in the Speaker’s Lobby: “I expect my staff to be on time. If I see Charles’s lazy ass 10 minutes late, I’m going to kick him off my staff. He needs to start walking now.”

Clearly angry, Jackson spoke in a serious, businesslike tone. He was likely referring to Charles Dujon, the lawmaker’s legislative director and designated Appropriations Committee aide.

His boss’s words notwithstanding, Dujon has not shown sluggishness when it comes to other job duties, having traveled on the congressional dime on behalf of Jackson’s office to places such as Israel, Madagascar, Peru, Jordan and Morocco between 2002 and 2005.

Ken Edmonds, Jackson’s spokesman, offered the following explanation by e-mail: “As the Vice Chair of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Jackson fully intended to fulfill his obligation to fill-in for Chairwoman Lowey who had unfortunately been ill for several weeks.  

“Congressman Jackson was very upset to discover that he hadn’t been informed about an important appropriations subcommittee meeting which he should have chaired, but was not on his schedule.  Our staff understood his anger and accepted responsibility for the oversight.    

“In the end, the Congressman was on time for the meeting and so was Charles, whose been a valued and hardworking member of our staff for more than 10 years ... and counting.”


Biden’s son to be deployed to Iraq

Before he dropped out of the 2008 presidential race, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) faced the possibility that he might have to make a decision as commander in chief that could put his son in harm’s way.

That’s because Biden’s son Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq later this year with the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware Army National Guard. The younger Biden is serving his fifth year as a captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Just before his father left before recess for a trip to the Middle East, he told The Hill that his son’s unit, based in Smyrna, Del., received orders in January for training, the first step in the deployment process.

Sen. Biden, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and is a leading critic of the administration’s Iraq policy, is not keen about seeing his son sent to the combat zone.

Biden told Radio Iowa last year: “I don’t want him going. But I tell you what, I don’t want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years, and so how we leave makes a big difference.”

The senator was in Pakistan last week to observe the Feb. 18 parliamentary elections that left President Pervez Musharraf’s government on shaky ground. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) joined him on a trip that included stops in Afghanistan, India and Turkey.