The Hemophiliac Who Got High

Not that kind of high, but really high, like Mt. Ranier high. Jeff Salantai, who has hemophilia, and Eric Hill, president and founder of BioRx, a home care company, undertook the grueling challenge of climbing Mt. Rainier, in order to raise funds for two nonprofits—one of them mine!

Mt. Rainier is the tallest glaciated mountain in the lower 49 states–only Alaska has one higher. It is located just outside of Ashford, Washington. Jeff is an account manager for BioRx and lives in Austin, Texas. Eric writes, “After more than 7 months of training and preparation, we attempted to summit the mountain the second week of August. We received tons of thoughts and prayers from many of you and we just wanted to say thank you to everyone who called or wrote wishing us luck. We summited the mountain at 7:20 am on Saturday, August 15, at 14,410 feet….so wiped out we could barely function (only to realize we had about 7 more hours of continuous trekking to get back down) but we did it.”

Most amazingly, is that Eric has pledged to match funds with anyone who wants to donate for their climb, for Save One Life, my nonprofit that sponsors over 500 children with hemophilia in developing countries.

Jeff Salantai

Both men agreed that this is was the hardest thing they’ve ever done. Eric writes, “I’ve run a marathon, done 4 more 23 mile runs, completed 5 Olympic length triathlons, climbed 2 other 14,000 ft mountains (no glaciers) and raced in 100k road bike races. Jeff likewise has done some pretty spectacular physical challenges like climbing the second and third largest mountains in the US, rock climbed some amazing cliffs, and has competed in 100 mile bike races on a routine basis. We both agreed that they all paled in comparison to the effort and mental trial of this experience.”

Incredibly, they are “99% sure” that Jeff is the first person living with hemophilia to summit Mt. Rainier. Jeff may now hold the record for the highest summit in the world by someone with hemophilia.

Their donations are so needed. I am visiting countries that no one in the hemophilia community has visited before and we are hoping to do outreach to find the people with hemophilia, who are as yet unidentified and suffering in silence. Please help, and show your support for the tremendous and risky fundraiser that Eric and Jeff undertook. I have never heard of any fundraiser quite like theirs!

Jeff and Eric write, “Thanks to everyone for everything you’ve done and the support you’ve provided to both of us.”

Congratulations to Jeff and Eric, two courageous and determined men with hearts of gold.

Risk vs Reward

It was a perfect day in Massachusetts– for skydiving! Today I  jumped out, as they say, of a “perfectly good airplane” at 14,000 feet. On the way up, one of my friends couldn’t buckle up in the car as one of the seat belts was broken. This got me thinking about risk, our perception of risk, and reward. Most people would never go skydiving. They consider it dangerous, although your chances of dying in a car crash (from not wearing your seat belt) are much higher. Most people are shocked that I love to skydive, and not only that, that I encourage others as well.

For me, the rewards outweighed any perceived risk. Our perception of risk often determines our decisions. And things seem riskier 1) if we are not familiar personally with it–most people don’t ever skydive, 2) if it is sensational– and one skydive death makes the news, even while several car accidents will be overlooked, 3) if there is feeling of lack of control. We often “feel” more in control of our cars, and feel less likely to die in them.

This is my fourth jump.

There are about 3 million jumps in a typical year in the US, and about 30 deaths. This is about one person per 100,000 jumps. One website says “You would have to jump 17 times per year for your risk of dying in a skydiving accident to equal your risk of dying in a car accident if you drive 10,000 miles per year.” So odds are good you’ll be fine!

So what’s all this got to do with hemophilia? Some people are still very insecure about infusing factor concentrate. We are writing up a big article for the August issue of PEN about recombinant and plasma-derived factor concentrates. There are risks with any medication, and of course we had sensational deaths with hemophilia many years ago. This has made many fearful of products. But all US products are considered safe by the US FDA. These are among the most scrutinized drugs on earth, and we run a higher health risk eating at a fast food restaurant than infusing factor.

Sometimes it all has to do with perception. My perception of skydiving? The rewards far outweigh the risks. I feel the same about factor concentrate, too. Read the August issue of PEN to learn more about safety of our products, and if you ever want to shake up your world, get on the edge, have an adventure, try skydiving!

“Life is a daring adventure, or is is nothing at all.” Helen Keller

HemaBlog Archives