Bombardier Blood in Utah!

When our team was dividing up who will represent Save One Life at various showings of “Bombardier Blood,” the incredible movie about Chris Bombardier’s Seven Summits Quest, I jumped at going to Utah. Utah is one of my favorite places: drenched in southwest colors of red and yellow, with soaring mesas and fins, and deep, rich canyons, it’s an adventurer’s dream. It seemed to fit the message of the movie, too: go out. See the world. Climb, hike, walk, smell fresh air, dream, do.

After spending a week exploring Antelope Island, Moab and Zion, I headed north on I-15 and reached Salt Lake City. The Utah Hemophilia Foundation’s executive director Scott Muir was there to greet me. And not only greet me, but to give me the gift of his paintings, bound as photos in a hardcover book! All the paintings are of Zion National Park, which he well knows I adore. Scott is a talented photographer and artist.

And apparently, executive director! We had a huge turnout for the event. About 150 or more families arrived to socialize, have dinner, enter raffles and engage with the various pharma and specialty pharmacy vendors. I was so happy to meet up with long time friends, colleagues and Facebook friends (some of whom I have not yet met in person). There were so many children, and while you might think their presence might disrupt a movie, the children were as good as gold.

I gave a few words before the movie started, and let the audience know this amazing stat: out of the 108 billion people who have ever walked this earth, less than 500 have ever accomplished all Seven Summits. I’m not sure you can easily even measure that! The audience was hushed as the movie began, and for 90 minutes, were riveted to the screens.

Laurie Kelley and Scott Muir

After the movie, one 14-year-old asked me a very leading question: how did Chris keep his factor warm on the mountain? “Why don’t you ask him yourself?” I replied. His eyes lit up! Chris must seem like a hero to so many, and thus, out of reach. But he is very approachable. The young teen was thrilled to get Chris’s email address, and I had to ask him: was he interested one day in doing mountain climbs? He nodded his head vigorously and smiled! Come join us, I invited him!

And coincidentally, Save One Life will be hosting a three-day hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 2020!

Bombardier Blood is about making dreams come true, and if you can see it at your local chapter, please do! You may believe anything is possible.

Thanks to Utah Hemophilia Foundation for hosting this movie, and to all who sponsored the event. Special call out to Octapharma, which sponsored Chris’s last two and most expensive climbs, and for daring to take a risk on a young man with a big dream. Sometimes the riskiest adventures yield the greatest joys and successes!

Bombardier Blood was created by Believe Ltd, and is now produced by Alex Borstein. It showcases not only Chris’s climbs but also the disparity of treatment in bleeding disorder between developed and developing countries, being addressed through the work of Save One Life.

Bombardier Blood: Incredible Journey with a Cast of Characters

Coincidences are God’s way of staying anonymous. Albert Einstein 

Yesterday I was in Denver, Colorado, to attend the hometown premiere of Bombardier Blood, the new documentary that chronicles the life and achievement of Chris Bombardier, a person with hemophilia B this year who became the first person with hemophilia to complete the Seven Summits. The movie was debuted at NHF’s annual meeting in Orlando, in October, to an audience of over 500.  Yesterday, the Colorado Hemophilia Society rented an IMAX theater, and invited the Colorado bleeding disorder community to attend.

Chris and Jess Bombardier with Laurie Kelley and Amy Board Photo: Rob Bradford

What a proud day for Colorado! Chris and his wife Jess attended, flying in as I did from Boston, which recently became their new home. Chris’s whole family came: parents Alan and Cathy, Aunt Bev and Uncle Jay Labe and cousin Nicole, and of course, “Crazy” Uncle Dave. And while Chris’s whole family is incredibly warm, down-to-earth and personable, I really wanted to meet this character Uncle Dave! When you see the movie—and you will someday—you will know what I mean!

Chris’s poster is right next to Bumblebee’s and Aquaman’s!

We congratulated the astounding film-making and editing team of Rob Bradford and Steven Sander, who were both present, and thanked expedition and film sponsor Octapharma. The theater filled with community members—moms, dads, small children, and many of Chris’s peers with hemophilia—holding popcorn, soda and high expectations. We settled into our seats before the mammoth screen, hushed our voices, silenced our cell phones, and the theater darkened. The darkness faded into a scene of Everest, prayer flags, snow and ice, and Chris, trying to skewer a vein in the icy air. The film continued from this moment at Everest, into a 90-minute tale of what it took to get him there. It is a fascinating story of a boy with hemophilia who dreamed of being a baseball player, who was thwarted in his dreams, who suffered depression, anger, who was disconnected from his own local community… until key events unfolded in sequence, “like divine intervention,” one audience member confided. The events included the right people appearing in his life at the right time, until his destiny seemed all but spelled out. This young man would conquer Everest.

Chris’s proud parents, Cathy and Alan

I took part in Chris’s journey at some point, and have seen this movie three times now. It never fails to inspire. You want to jump out of your seat and get moving, to find your own dream, and then make it happen. If Chris could climb the Seven Summits (a feat only about 450 humans ever in history have done!), and did it with hemophilia, then what can the rest of us accomplish? We are only limited, it seems, by our own imagination, and our belief in ourselves.

The audience loves it! Photo: Rob Bradford

But some new footage was added to this version of the film—the role played by the vivacious and energetic Amy Board, executive director of the Colorado Hemophilia Society. Amy was the person who drew Chris out from the crowd. She encouraged him to come to hemophilia camp, where Chris met someone else with hemophilia for the first time. He saw how the children were active, happy, connected. And Chris became connected. He volunteered at camp, became a mentor to the children. Due to Amy, Chris became part of the hemophilia community. It was the first major step on the long hike to better mental health, a career, a new vision… and ultimately Everest.

Laurie Kelley meets Crazy Uncle Dave!

Chris did not just scale the Seven Summits or make a movie about himself; he has promoted hemophilia worldwide with his life-risking achievement, and he has made a call for action for others, to help those in developing countries through Save One Life. Without Amy, without camp, he might not have joined the community. Without working at the Indiana HTC as a lab tech, he might never have gone to Africa, where his eyes were opened to the suffering of his blood brothers overseas. Without Uncle Dave? Who knows. Bombardier Blood boasts a cast of supporting characters who embody this mystical truth: We never know what ripples we create when we reach out, take a risk, and care about another human being.

Chris did it. He made history. First person with hemophilia to scale Everest, and to bag the Seven Summits. And I suspect that Chris’s story is far from over, but is really just beginning.

Chris with photographer Rob Bradford

Laurie with Octapharma reps Paul Wilk and Elizabeth Pulley

Laurie Kelley with photographer Rob Bradford and film editor Steven Sander

         

 

 

 

 

 

United by Blood

Madonna Smith, executive director of Oregon Chapter, adopted a child with hemophilia into our “family”

Well I’m ready for a rest! Last week I was in Orlando at NHF’s 70th annual meeting, and last night, at the New England Hemophilia Association’s Red Tie Soiree in Worcester, Massachusetts. And while there is so much happening with new products, with gene therapy coming closer, new programs for our community, and the spectacular movie Bombardier Blood ready for viewing nationwide, the overriding feeling I have after these major events is… this is family. We are truly a family, united by blood.

With the California gang!

As I’ve been in the community for over 30 years now, I’ve come to know so many people, and have watched as babies have grown to young adults, starting families of their own, some also with bleeding disorders. Our family grows, and grows older! My friends and I, all young moms and dads when we came into this family, are now in our 60s, looking back at the incredible path this bleeding disorder family has traveled together.

One path literally is the one that led to the movie Bombardier Blood, which debuted last Saturday in Orlando. To a standing room only crowd of over 500 people at 7:15 am, the Octapharma-sponsored event and movie about Chris Bombardier’s epic Everest summit brought laughter and tears to all. It is a stunning film, directed by Patrick James Lynch—whose name you all should know as well as Chris’s by now! These two young men with hemophilia have skyrocketed to fame with their achievement. It makes us, the older moms and dads, incredibly proud. We all kind of feel like they are “our” sons, or like our sons. Sons of our community, doing daring things for our community. 

Go Here to See Photos from NHF’s 70th Annual Meeting!

I was honored and fortunate to travel the actual path to Everest base camp with Chris and his wife Jess, and share in part of that historic journey. All the while, I felt like the mother I am, watching out over both of them (as if Chris needed it!). Viewing the movie that morning brought back so many memories and feelings of that journey in May 2017.

So much of the NHF meeting was connecting, with old friends and new, with families in need and families who can share and give. And at the final night we listened to music and danced the night away. While blood unites us as family, music unites us in joy.

I wish everyone could attend NHF’s or HFA’s annual meeting, though I know it’s improbable for most. The meetings are often held in the same spots: Dallas, Chicago,

Laurie Kelley with Derek Nelson, everyone’s favorite

Anaheim, Orlando, San Diego. You’ll never see one in Boston—too expensive. Not everyone can afford to go away by air and stay at hotels. While there are scholarships for first-time families, it sadly still leaves many in our family on the fringe.

Laurie Kelley with Kevin Shaughnessy, who she met when he was 12!

And that’s why we have local chapters and state bleeding disorder organizations. Does your state or region have one? The New England Hemophilia Association has become one of the best run organizations in the US. It wasn’t always that way. As we heard last night, when Charlie Dougherty, who served as treasurer and who passed away earlier this year, found when he joined, it was poorly run and $22,000 in the red. He straightened it up, but it took Rich Pezzillo, a young man with hemophilia, to rocket it into the highest level, and not just by squaring away financials. Rich has breathed new life into NEHA, infusing it with passion and commitment like never before. I confess I never donated to NEHA, even though I’ve lived in New England all my life. But with Rich’s leadership and his crackerjack team, we are all excited to give and participate once again. Last night proved it. I sponsored three tables and invited the team at Save One Life to come and experience the joy of this family reunion, and they had a blast, amazed by the comradery and caring.

In many ways, I find I can enjoy our bleeding disorder family simply by being local. So there’s hope for you too, to join this family by seeking out your local organization. Is it active? Does it have programs? NEHA has programs every month, sometimes every weekend! Does your chapter do a fundraising walk? Have a women’s or teen program? Is there someone to call to learn how to get involved?

I would really urge you to do everything you can to participate. Bleeding disorders can throw a curve ball at you at any time, as life can too. This family, this “Wicked Strong Family” as we say in Boston, is here to help. These friends have become more than friends—they are truly family.

And when I attended the wake last Friday of my first cousin’s husband, who died unexpectedly at only age 61, you realize how family is always family, no matter what. I visited with my cousins, who I rarely see anymore, except on Facebook. We were playmates as children, but life gets busy, the family gets bigger and reunions consist mostly of funerals now. Still, we have history and we are united by blood. It was good to see everyone again; I still love them all.

See Photos from NHF’s 70th Annual Meeting here!

Rising star: Rich Pezzillo with Laurie Kelley

We’ve lost a lot of people in this community this year and as life goes on will continue to lose more. It’s at this time that family comes together: whether nationally, or locally. Find out more about your local chapter; meet your hemophilia/bleeding disorder family. Get involved; give of your time or support. We are all united by blood, and can create the family we need by connecting, caring, sharing and loving.

And a little celebrating and dancing doesn’t hurt either!

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