Risk and Reward on Everest

If you’ve been following my blogs and Facebook postings, you’ll know that we have history in the making: Chris Bombardier is poised to be the first person with hemophilia to attempt to summit Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Risky? Beyond words. I’ve read all the books, about Everest and many other legendary mountain climbs; I’ve read about the history of mountain climbing. I’ve done some mountain climbing and most recently accompanied Chris on the nine-day trek to base camp. Not a Sunday stroll! It’s cold, hostile, and indescribably beautiful. 
And risky. 
Camp 1

Even just being at base camp proved fatal for some two years ago on April 25, 2015 when an earthquake struck during the extremely short climbing season, killing over a dozen people in base camp, just over a small hill behind our camp site.

Today we sadly learned that a legendary Swiss climber has died near Everest. Ueli Steck, 40, was attempting to be the first person to climb both Everest and Lhotse in one climb, and is believed to have slipped while acclimatizing.
According to the news wires: “He had been alone, and was last seen on nearby Mount Nuptse around 4.30 am. Steck, whose Everest-Lhotse climb would involve spending a night in the ‘death zone’ …had said before his trip: ‘I think it is possible but that’s the exciting thing, nobody has done that before,’ he said.’”
Immediately I started getting texts from concerned community members, about Chris. 
We don’t know all the details of this tragic loss. Steck, called “The Swiss Machine,” was said to be meticulous and exacting. He was a world class mountaineer.  I read he was alone, but we don’t know yet the conditions or the circumstances. He was trying to do something no one else had done before. 
Camp 2
Chris is also doing something no one else has done before. But Chris will never be alone, and is also a slow, meticulous and cautious climber. Our main concern is infusing at over 21,000 feet. So far, so good.
Today, April 30, Chris just returned from a climb to Camp 3, which sits at 24,500 feet. He writes: “The team and I have returned from our camp 3 rotation! A great climb today and the team moved really well as a single unit up and down safely!”  This was the highest elevation Chris has ever climbed to…with another 4,500 feet still to go to the summit. “After Camp 3 it’s back to Base Camp for some much needed rest and healing,” he writes, “while we wait for weather to attempt our Summit push!”
Up to Camp 3!

Chris does climb at great risk, and his reward is to help those who suffer with hemophilia in countries like Nepal. “While up here at Camp 2, I’d love to get 2 more kids sponsored today! Please check out Save One Life, Inc. and pick someone’s life to save! Ask a friend, a family member, a colleague, a boss even! Inspire others!”

A humanitarian, Chris adds, “As I reflect on my journey with hemophilia tonight I can’t grasp the true struggle these families deal with. I am lucky to be able to try and climb Mt. Everest while those in the same country don’t even have a permanent home to live in. For me, I hope this climb can have a positive impact on the families here in Nepal and I encourage you all to try and donate to http://www.saveonelife.net/everest-2017.php. The money raised here will go directly to those families in need in Nepal and hopefully make having a permanent roof over their heads something they no longer have to worry about.”
Please keep Chris in your thoughts and prayers as he undertakes this monumental, historic climb on a mountain that requires so much risk, offers so much reward, and has taken so many.
As he risks so much, please honor his climb and efforts by contributing to Save One Life, Inc.  Go to my Facebook page to see a video of Amos, of Ghana, a young man I sponsor, who walks bent over, suffering from permanent joint damage.

It’s for patients like Amos that Chris climbs, and risks so much.

#nepalhemophiliasociety #nepal #hemophilia #bleedingdisorders#everest #climbing #everest2017 #bebrave #secondrotation #camp2#himalaya #bombardierblood #playitsmart

Risks and Rewards

Laurie Kelley: Thumbs up

I love taking risks. Getting that adrenaline going; seeing how far I can push myself. There’s a great quote and I don’t know who said it: We don’t know who we are until we see what we can do. From going to graduate school on my own, to skydiving, to cooking (seriously), I love taking risks.

Today I went bungee jumping for the first time ever, in Queenstown, New Zealand, following the WFH Congress in Australia, because I’ve already done the skydiving thing many times, and then there was that gorilla in Rwanda last month…

So 439 feet over a canyon I leaped into the air, executing a perfect swan dive into nothingness, and enjoyed the air pushing against my face, roaring in my ears, the earth rushing up to greet me… then boing! I am gently pulled back from the earth and tossed upward, the way a seal might toss up a fish to swallow; down again slower, then back up again, hanging upside down. I yank a cord attached to my feet and instantly I am upright, and the guys switch on the wench that will haul me up to the platform.

I loved that first jump so much, I did another one right afterward. The guys on the platform loved that. Everyone else had left. Risk? Some, I guess. Reward? Bragging rights, and a massive, pulsating adrenaline rush that you can’t get too many places on earth.

Barry Haarde: Legend, risk taker, reward giver!
Yahoo! Swan dive over the canyon

Well, I’m not the only one in the community who loves risk. Barry Haarde (surely you have heard of the Barry Haarde?) just finished on Saturday his third coast to coast ride, on a bike, racking up about one hundred miles a day. A day. A day! I did 100+ miles on a bike last September in one day and it just about killed me. Despite having hemophilia, HIV and a knee contracture, Barry is a human machine. I can’t imagine what his physicians must think of him. He must shame them; you can’t get fitter than he is, I suspect.

There are lots of risks for Barry on the ride: physical problems like bleeds, injuries, illness. Logistical ones like accidents, bike problems. And psychological: what if he didn’t finish? Oh, the humiliation! But he did finish. He always finishes.

His reward? He goes down in history. He’s a celebrity. He’s a cool, righteous dude. He’s a role model for thousands of young people with hemophilia and a few older ones who have hemophilia and/or joint damage. Heck, he’s my role model. Dreams can come true. You’re never too old. Never quit. Think of all the cliches… they’re true!

And Barry posted on Facebook each day, as on previous rides, photos of those who died from contaminated blood, injected through their clotting factor. Intangible rewards: people who will never be forgotten, thanks to Barry. This included his own brother John.

And… tangible rewards for hundreds who will never know Barry, and never even know what he did. Barry raised over $45,000 for Save One Life (http://www.saveonelife.net), the nonprofit I founded to help kids with hemophilia in developing countries. For these kids, each day is a risk. They may not make it to the next without clotting factor. We’re here to help them get through childhood, because each child matters.

Barry writes on Facebook:

Yahoo! Risk has its rewards

“Wheels for the World III” is now complete and our fundraising goal was met! We wish to thank all those who made our ride a success, who include (but are not limited to) our corporate sponsors, Baxter, Bayer, Alliance and Matrix Pharmacies, King BioMed, Colburn-Keenan, our many grass roots donors, America By Bicycle’s fabulous staff, my managers at HP for arranging the time off to complete the ride, and especially, Ken Baxter, for the countless hours spent on photo/video editing, phoning media outlets, and travelling all the way down to L.A. to document my departure. Thank you all and see you next year!!

Next year? Oh my gosh, that means he’s going to do it again! I also need to find a risky venture. Bungee jumping was a 30 second adventure while Barry’s was one month! Maybe I will ride with Barry. That would be the greatest reward.

Thank you, Barry! From the bottom of my heart, which at one point was deep in a canyon today.


Risky Business at 13,000 Feet

(Photo: Tommy, Laurie and Kevin at Skydive New England, harnessed to jump)

So Tommy and I had a unique mother-son experience this past week. We jumped out of an airplane together at 13,000 feet. (I always threatened I was going to toss him out of a plane someday.) This fulfilled a promise I made to each of my three kids– that I would take them skydiving, a passion of mine, after their 18th birthday. This was my third skydive and his first. And this was my gift to him on the eve of his 20th birthday. What a fantastic way to inaugurate adulthood!

He was excited, and nervous. With us was my 22-year-old nephew Kevin, a police academy cadet, who seemed as jazzed as Tommy. It may seem funny to you that it’s an almost 50-year-old mother initiating this for her son. One spectator, a woman about my age who was watching as her 19-year-old daughter prepared to jump, said to Tommy, “You’ve got a cool mom!” Hearing that that was worth any risk in jumping, especially as Tara reminds me often how uncool I am. Who doesn’t want to be cool?

But I personally don’t think of skydiving as very risky. Most people do. My life insurance company certainly does. I think of it more as exciting, a way to overcome one’s personal fear. I was never afraid of heights, but actually jumping out the side of an airplane and hurtling to earth–9,000 feet in 55 seconds of freefalling– did give me butterflies. But I savor the adrenaline rush, and adore the idea of conquering fear. And I go tandem–strapped to my back is an instructor with 28 years of skydiving experience (including many years with the Italian Army) and thousands of jumps under his parachute. I was in good hands.(Photo: Tommy plummeting at 120 mph)

And I know Tommy would love it. I was hoping he’d feel that he’d overcome some measure of internal fear, and feel proud of himself. While I’ve always encouraged him to take some risks in life, and not feel overprotected or fragile, especially from hemophilia, Tommy has always been a cautious child by nature. And he’s an only boy; he didn’t have a big brother egging him on, daring him, showing him the way.

I had six brothers growing up, and as the only girl, and a petite runt at that, I had to always compete with the boys. With all those active, competitive brothers, there was no way I could not love risk. You had to: to fit in, to belong, to earn the admiration of your playmates, you had to do what the boys did. And they did a lot: waterskiing, snow skiing, motorcycle riding, rifle shooting, fishing, tree climbing, racing. We had land, lots of boys, a tree fort… my family attracted all the neighborhood boys in the 1960s, until we had our own tribe–with me as an honorary member, I guess. If there was a challenge in front of you, you took it. If you were dared, you did it. And not only to fit in, but to measure your ability, to see what you could overcome internally. To grow. Pain? Forget it. A few cuts, scrapes and scabs were badges of honor; to suffer in silence was one of the best ways to gain respect.

But times change, and it seems boys today don’t get the same opportunities we had growing up, especially only boys. Especially boys with hemophilia. We have to seek out adventure now. Earlier this summer Kevin and I took the kids white-water rafting, during a scheduled dam release, no less. Great fun, hours on the river, teamwork as a family– we always enjoy that adventure. So I upped it a notch for Tommy by giving him a skydiving certificate. He said yes!

Well, there was one truly risky part to this whole thing (besides the jumping out of a plane bit). He didn’t infuse before skydiving (Yikes, I can hear all the hematologists grinding their teeth now). Caught up in the excitement, the factor was left behind. Tommy has moderate hemophilia and does not infuse that much anymore, and never infused prophylatically, except for major events (which this should have qualified as!). This was a reschehduled jump, his cousin had driven two hours for the second time in two weeks to do the jump, and school started the following week–no hope of skydiving after this day. We had to make a decision. Calculating the risk, we decided it was actually very low. There was very little chance of injury when you go tandem. Still, in the back of my mind, I wished he had infused. But part of growing into adulthood is making your own decisions. I respected his. And he did fine. We boarded the prop plane after gearing up. The plane is stripped down and you sit on benches inside, nothing remotely like commercial flying. The ride is loud, the engines roaring, and the anticipation builds. At each thousand feet climb, you get strapped in closer and closer to your instructor, and you can feel adrenaline surging through you! Then the people ahead of you stand at the bay door, which opens, and within seconds whoosh! They are swept away. They seem to plummet like rocks to earth, but when it’s your turn… you feel as though you are floating underwater. You lose all sense of speed. It’s basically indescribable. After 55 seconds, the chute streams out and with a quick jerk, everything becomes eerily quiet, and you sail around, admiring the flawlessly blue sky, the fluffy little trees 2,000 feet below, and the miracle of flight.

When your feet hit the ground, first-timers predictably say the same thing (everyone did who was a first-timer that day): “That was incredible! I loved it! It was too short! I want to go right now again!” Tommy grinned from ear to ear. He and Kevin chatted nonstop about it, every aspect of it. And made plans to go again! (Photo: Hugs for my nephew)

There’s a great new book out called “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” detailing all the fun and risky things boys should know and do before they transition to adulthood: how to camp, how to build a fire, how to build a tree house, how to fish, make knots, skim stones, how to build go-carts, and fly paper airplanes. Things we did normally, naturally. This book is like a walk down Memory Lane of a wonderful childhood populated with curious and active boys. We did all those things; boys should do those things. And boys need to do those things. They need to take risks, push themselves, compete, overcome their fears. More so if the boy has a disorder like hemophilia. The trick is to find activities with an acceptable level of risk. Skydiving is one of them for me, and now for Tommy. Preferably next year, he’ll infuse first. Risk is great but it should be weighed, and I don’t like tempting fate too often.

I like skydiving, rock climbing, traveling to exotic developing countries. People sometimes ask: what activity do I feel is personally risky?

Cooking. Just ask my kids. No wonder they aren’t afraid to skydive.

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