Friday, December 23, 2011

Tackling Kilimanjaro: Becoming the First American with Hemophilia to Summit (Part 2)


Part 2

Shira Camp Sunrise
Morning of the third day of the climb revealed one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.  A thin layer of clouds lay below us enveloping the African countryside, only neighboring Mt. Meru peaked through the clouds.  The sun slowly broke through the clouds in vibrant color to reveal the summit of Kilimanjaro.  It was unbelievable, I was memorized.  Getting started wasn’t a problem today.  After two uneventful and somewhat easy days behind us I felt a calmness that I hadn’t felt before.  With two relatively easy days behind us I came to the conclusion that although today was supposed to be an infusion day, I would skip the infusion and see how things went.  Little did I know this decision would almost cost us the summit and the rest of our trip.

After an amazing breakfast we began one of our “climb high sleep low” days.  This is a common practice in mountaineering because it helps in the acclimation to high elevation.  Today we would climb to the Lava Tower then descend back to Barranco Camp in a climbing day that would last close to 7 hours. 
Hiking to the Lava Tower
The climb began uneventfully.  A slight but constant uphill grade confronted us and the terrain quickly become vacant of most vegetation.   It was as if we had been transported to another planet.  Large volcanic boulders lay strewn about the mountain side.  Today the glaciers atop the summit of Kilimanjaro were clearly visible with an amazingly clear blue sky backdrop.  The summit peak, also known as Kibo (Kilimanjaro is actually comprised of three volcanos which together are called Kilimanjaro), stood in full view of us all day.  Today I realized just how far the summit still was.  With every step, the summit seemed to stay exactly the same distance from us.  It seemed as though we were fighting a never ending battle.  Several hours passed as my uncle I became entranced into a rhythmic march up the mountain side.  Today I would travel to the highest point I had ever been without the aid of an airplane.  Our goal for the day, the Lava Tower, stands at 15,190ft, almost 1,000ft higher then I have ever been.  How would my body react?  I have read many horror stories of individuals at elevation and the sudden sickness it can bring.  Would this elevation be my breaking point?  To this point I have felt incredibly good and strong but elevation is a very tricky adversary.  I also had not taken any Diomox, a drug that helps people at high elevation.  Should I have started?  Dave and I talked about it many times but we both kind of felt like that would be cheating and not a true test of ourselves.

Descending Lava Tower
On the mountain you have a lot of time to think.  I answered all the above questions about a thousand times to myself in a thousand different ways but what it always came down to was, the only way to find out is to get there.  We arrived at the base of the Lava Tower around noon and had lunch at the base and I felt great!  No signs of altitude sickness at all!  We enjoyed a fabulous lunch in which Julius told us “you are very strong” which made my confidence grow more and more.  After eating, Julius asked if we would like to actually climb the Lava Tower.  Without hesitation Dave and I agreed.  Nothing sounded more fun than breaking up the monotony of the hike with a little scrambling up rocks.  We left our trekking poles at the base and began our climb.  There were some amazing little moves to the climb.  Nothing to difficult but with enough challenge to get your heart racing.  I’m not sure how long we took to get to the top but by that time, clouds had rolled in and our view became only a few feet.  We enjoyed our time at the top of the Lava Tower and after catching our breath, we headed down.  Up always seems easier to me and this instance was no different.  Some of the area we climbed were steep and coming down with a pack on made it quite difficult.  While climbing down a particular steep and tricky section and had to make a gigantic step down.  As I did so my right leg bent up underneath me and instantly I knew it had gone too far and I felt a sharp pain in my thigh.  I pulled my quad. With it, my heart sank.  The pain wasn’t agonizing and I knew it wasn’t a terrible pull but my mind flashed back to my decision not to infuse that morning.  Would it bleed?  Would my trip be over?

Approaching Barranco Camp
Sunset in Barranco Camp
I choose not to say anything at the time and hope that it wouldn’t get worse.  We finished the climb down from Lava Tower and began our decent to Barranco Camp where we would spend the night.  The decent was amazingly beautiful but I was unable to focus on it.  With every step I could feel a slight tightness in my thigh.  I analyzed every step, trying to figure out if it was getting worse.  I tried to put it out my mind but I was terrified not only that if it got worse I may not be able to proceed but what happened if I wasn’t able to control it.  Medical facilities in East Africa are not good, as I witnessed earlier on my trip, but there is also little to no knowledge of hemophilia.  An hour or two into our decent, the tightness in my thigh began to lessen and I thought I dodged a bullet.  We approached Barranco Camp on a steep trail with the most epic views.  The town of Moshi lay miles below us in the valley, sparsely covered with clouds.  Exotic trees and shrubs lined the path.  I truly felt I was in another world.  The night spent in Barranco Camp was very memorable.  I spent most of my time staring at the cliffs surround us and the glaciers clinging to the rocks above them.  The night at Barranco Camp was quite peaceful and the events of the day faded to the back of my mind.  Unfortunately those thoughts wouldn’t stay there for long.   I was in for a rude awakening.  Literally…

Part 3 to follow soon!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Starting off 2011-2012 Ski Season

Winter has finally arrived and despite the lack of snow in the mountains, the 2011-2012 ski season has begun. I have been anxiously waiting to head up the hill and get some turns in again and my brothers trip back to Colorado gave me the perfect excuse  to take a few days off of work and get some turns in.  We had a snow filled drive to my Uncle Dave's house on Monday night but were shocked to find bare mountains on the west side of Loveland pass.

We arose early Tuesday morning and after a great breakfast at Arapahoe Cafe my brother rented some gear and it was time to hit the slopes.  Riding the chair in the brisk morning air was a wonderful feeling that I have truly missed.  Reaching the top and after a couple cautious and timid turns it all came back to me.  Although the snow wasn't great, a bit icy, the joy of skiing was back!


This was also the first time I have skied in a few without infusing before heading out.  I am currently on a new factor product that only allows an infusion once a week.  I was a little nervous about this but a few turns swept those thoughts from my mind.  It was a great first day back on the slopes!

We were exhausted after day one but a few snowflakes falling re-energized us for day two.  We once again had breakfast at Arapahoe Cafe then hit the slopes.  An overcast sky loomed overhead most of the day with small flurries of snow.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  I was so glad to be back skiing.  We had to head home Wednesday night and missed a pretty good storm but it was still a great few days.

For those of you waiting patiently for Part 2 of my Kili climb I will be posting tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tackling Kilimanjaro: Becoming the First American with Hemophilia to Summit (Part 1)

For those that don't know, I summited Kilimanjaro earlier this year, June 3, 2011 at 6:00 A.M. to be exact, and by stepping foot on the summit, became the first American with hemophilia to do so.  I was excited to get back to the states and write about my adventure but for some reason haven't been able to put words to paper/keyboard.  I'm not sure if what I had done really sank in or if I really even knew what it meant.  After having months to reflect and reminisce about Kilimanjaro and Africa I think I am ready to tell my story. So here goes nothing...

Kilimanjaro from the air
My Uncle Dave and I had already spent two weeks in Africa with a group from Indiana University helping inform and improve hemophilia care in Kenya and now we are leaving the safety of the group and traveling to Kilimanjaro together.  Once aboard the plane the dream of climbing Kili became a reality as a spectacular view of the peak began to fill my window.  The mountain I had read so much about and dreamed about was now real and thoughts of standing on the summit in less than a week began filling my head.  Excitement and nerves were almost overwhelming.

We landed at the Kilimanjaro Airport and after making it through the confusing and chaotic customs area we were greeted by our climbing guide Julius.  We drove through the African night towards the town of Arusha and our destination for the night, the Impala Hotel.  We drove past many bustling street corners and shops but my mind was focused on one thing and one thing only, the monstrous peak hiding in the darkness.

The evening before the climb was spent packing and unpacking and packing again.  Making sure everything was perfect and that everything we needed was ready to go.

The morning was quiet.  My uncle and I sat in silence during breakfast, both of us contemplating the journey that lay before us.  Returning to our hotel room, we went through our packs one last time.  The only thing left to do was my infusion and we would be on our way.  I wish I could say that infusion went perfectly and our trip started on a high note, but it didn't.  Maybe it was my nervousness that made that infusion so difficult but I missed twice.  After the second failed attempt my stress level skyrocketed.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to find a vein myself so I had to rely on my uncle, who had no medical training to infuse me.  Luckily the brief instruction by the medical staff on the first leg of our trip paid off and he nailed the vein his first try.  With that we were off to tackle the mountain and begin our arduous trek to the summit.

We boarded the bus outside our hotel and began the drive to Machame Gate where our climb would begin.  Once aboard and outside town, the epic mountain came into view.  The absolutely massive peak stretched across the horizon and the daunting task ahead became clear.  The approach to the gate was breathtaking, the flat savannah gave way to hills of banana trees and coffee plantations.  The forest lining both sides of the road grew denser and denser.  Then suddenly the Machame Gate came into view and the climb began.

Beginning the journey!
Hiking through the cloud forest
After signing in at the gate and once the porters and guides were organized, we began.  The porters quickly sprinted ahead while Julius and Cyprian reminded us "pole pole" which is Swahili for "slowly".  Since my uncle and I have done some climbing and backpacking before this trip, it was very unusual and nerve racking letting others carry our gear.  I think we both felt a bit silly watching the porters carry huge loads while we carried only our small backpacks.  This was the hardest thing to get comfortable with.

Machame Hut
The climb from Machame Gate to the Machame Hut was quite tame and beautiful.  Julius explained the terrain we were hiking in is known as a cloud forest and it was extremely damp.  Ferns loomed over and gigantic trees lined either side of the path.  I felt like I was walking through a prehistoric jungle.  Julius would stop at interesting plants and explain what they were and why they were so special to Kili.  The impatiens kilimanjari was by far the most memorable.  This small red and yellow flower only grows on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.  After several hours of hiking the vegetation began to thin and shorten.  You could tell we were gaining some serious elevation.  We emerged from the tangle of forest into whats known as the moorlands and found Machame Hut, our first campsite.  By the time we reached the hut, our tent was set up and gear safely stashed inside.  Another odd situation for my uncle and I since we were used to setting this all up ourselves.  The end of the afternoon was spent sitting and reading until a break in the clouds revealed our final goal, the summit of Kilimanjaro.  The breathtaking view of the peak sneaking out from behind the clouds.  The view away from the summit was equally as breathtaking.  At this point we were comforatble above the clouds that hid the Tanzanian plains.  It resembled a view from a plane soaring through the sky but we were comfortable sitting on the side of the highest peak in Africa.  This view would be a mainstay of our trip and I would never grow tired of it.  As evening approached we ate dinner with our guide and then retired to our tent.  The first day of the climb was a resounding success.

Resting on Day 2 with the summit in sight
Hike towards Shira Cave
Epic view of the African plains
Frigid night air was replaced by warming sunlight flooding our tent early on day 2.  Despite Kili's close proximity to the equator, temperatures become quite cold in the evenings, something we would find out first hand on summit day.  Sunny skies lead to spectacular views and a pleasant hike on day 2.  We traversed the mountain from Machame Hut to Shira Camp. Every turn revealed spectacular views.  Julius continued with his slow “pole pole” pace and Dave and I finally succumbed to the fact he wasn’t going to let us go any faster.  After coming to this realization I was able to enjoy my surroundings more and become less concerned with the task at hand.  We arrived at our second camp (Shira Caves) early in the afternoon.  This beautiful area is dotted with caves which Dave and went to explore.  Seeing the swirling patterns in the rocks created by lava reminded us that we were in fact, on a volcano.  The night was calm and little did I know that a poor decision I make in the morning would threaten our success on the mountain.


(Part 2 Coming December 15th)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lots of Updates!

Hey all!  So I haven't posted in awhile because I haven't done anything to exciting physically lately but it was suggested to me that I should post everything going on in my life as a hemophiliac and not just the stories about athletic experiences, so here it goes. 

So many exciting things have happened in recent months, number one, joining the Save One Life board of directors!  I was asked by Laurie Kelley to join the board as the only person living with hemophilia and because of my experiences in Africa and my desire to keeping working with hemophiliacs in developing countries.  I am extremely excited for this opportunity to work with so many exciting and motivated people to hopefully help those in need!

With this opportunity came another opportunity to help Save One Life and my local hemophilia community.  With the help of Martha Hopewell and Bob Graham, a new leadership program called "Lead Up" is being started that will put our leadership group here in Colorado in charge of raising funds to sponsor a person with hemophilia through Save One Life.  The leadership group will have to come up with the fundraising idea and then execute their plan to achieve their goals.  We are just getting started and haven't had our first meeting yet but we will soon! I created a blog to follow our adventure so please check it out and keep checking in to see our progress!  http://leadupcolorado.blogspot.com/

Lastly,  Save One Life is trying to reach a goal of 1000 sponsors by the end of the year and are only 161 awayPlease check out the site www.saveonelife.net and look at all the hemophiliacs in need and help if you can.  For those that know me and all the activites and adventures I have been able to have, think about those that haven't been as fortunate.  Help them live a more normal and fulfilling life.

I will be posting a video about my trip to Africa and Kilimanjaro climb soon, hopefully so keep checking back!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Backpacking/Mt. Massive


Last weekend was Labor Day weekend and also the weekend before my birthday and what better way to celebrate a birthday then by hiking into the wilderness, camping, then taking on the 2nd highest 14'er in Colorado!  The entire week before was filled with anticipation as we backed our packs and figured out exactly where we were going.  Mt. Massive actually was our third choice behind Holy Cross and Snowmass but due to circumstances out of our control we ended up at Massive.  We loaded up the car early Saturday morning and began our drive to Leadville where our hike would begin.  Loading the 30lbs packs onto our back we began walking.  I have been backpacking before but the views in the Mt. Massive wilderness are breathtaking!  The trail followed a stream almost the entire way and every turn lead to even more beautiful views.  The peaks of Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert loomed over us, almost like guards of the wilderness we were entering.  I felt truly at home here and sharing it with my girlfriend Jess and my good friends Brandon, Erick and Ashley made it even better!  We hiked for several hours back into the bowl the mountains formed, searching for the half-moon lakes.  We reached the end of the trail, but no lakes.  Brandon, Erick and I then decided to explore the area to see if we could spot anything.  We climbed higher and higher until finally we could see a magnificent turquoise lake tucked into the base of the mountains.  That's where we would camp!

A perfect area for a camp was located on the edge of the lake and a huge boulder sat on the opposite side that gave an expansive view of the entire valley.  I could've sat on that boulder for hours and hours looking at the beauty laid out before me.  We got camp set up and began cooking dinner which was a great learning opportunity.  Guess how much Mac & Cheese five people can eat?  I'll give you a hint, not a full gallon bag worth of it!  I guess having too much food is a okay problem to have and not the other way around.  After stuffing as much Mac & Cheese as possible, Jess gave me a amazing birthday surprise!  She packed Swiss Cake rolls and candles with her and then stacked them up so I would have a birthday cake!  It was awesome!  We were all pretty exhausted so once the sun went down we all went to sleep, excited for our summit attempt on Mt. Massive that would begin tomorrow.


We survived the night at 12,000ft...barely.  Temperatures plunged well below freezing and besides almost freezing during the night I was very excited in the morning.  Watching the sun rise over mountain peaks, lighting up the clearest lake I have ever seen is the best way to start off a day.  Breakfast consisted of a little oatmeal and hot water.  Not much but enough to get us energized.  We packed up camp and head to the Mt. Massive trailhead for our summit attempt.  The air was crisp and chilly but hiking through this beautiful country was amazing.






We dropped off our large backpacks at the trailhead for Mt. Massive, grabbed what gear we did need and head up.  The trail was quite steep and rocky!  Once we cleared treeline the views were incredible!  We could finally see the expansive valley below and even spot a few lakes we didn't see before.  We were also visited by several critters on the way up.  One quite large marmot seemed to lazy to move when Ashley and Jess approached so of course they had to see how close they could get to it! We also heard some talkative pikas along the way but the coolest animal was at the top! We saw three mountain goats hanging out at the summit!  We were all exhausted but seeing these animals and the view from the top made it completely worthwhile!  The day was so perfect, we stayed on top for awhile and ate our lunches and relaxed.  What a great birthday!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Downhill Mountain Biking!!!!

So on Sunday August 21st I finally got to try downhill mountain biking at Keystone! I have wanted to try this for years and years and I finally got enough courage up to try it and it was more fun then I could even imagine! I met my Uncle Dave at his condo and proceeded to get "geared" up, which basically meant strapping pads all over my body and hoping that would prevent anything to bad from happening. The chair life ride up the mountain was very strange since this was the first time I've rode one without skis on and once I reached the top a huge knot in my stomach developed and I thought I may throw up I was so nervous! We got on our bikes and Dave says, "Lets start of easy on a green run." All I have to say is WHAT A BLAST! We fly down the green run and about half way down the mountain we stop and Dave says "now its time for a blue!". I thought the green run was fun but the blue was even better! The speeds picked up more and more and the trail got smaller and smaller. I loved it! Just when I thought I was getting the hang of the blue, Dave thinks its about time for a black run. This is where it went from fun to borderline terrifying! I had no idea you could ride a bike down something that steep! There were a few parts I wasn't ready for, but for the most part I made it down everything and then I got cocky. Finishing up the run I spotted a nice easy looking wood box you could ride on. Nothing to bad so I went full speed at it! Before I knew it I had rode off the side of it, off the trail and desperately tried to hang on. Then came the large rock. My front tire smashed into the rock, wrenching my handle bars sideways and I proceeded to fly forward over them. I tucked and rolled and hoped nothing to solid got in my way and thankfully nothing did! We finished the run and I was completely exhausted, arms and legs shaking, so excited and ready to do it again! I couldn't stop smiling as we rode the chairlift to the top of the mountain again. I love downhilling! When we reach the top we head straight for another black run and unlike the first black, I was much more excited then scared! Dave took of down the mountain with myself following closely behind. I was really starting to get a hang of this! I watched Dave catch a little air of a small jump and followed him off of it! What a blast! We continued down the mountain where I spotted a much larger jump and thought, "what the hell" and went full speed at it. Needless to say, hitting huge jumps the first time downhilling might not be the best idea. After take-off, one of my feet promptly fell from the pedal as I careened through the air completely out of control. Somehow I managed to land mostly on the bike and ride it out! The adrenaline was really pumping at this point and I made the decision to not hit anymore jumps today. I was pushing my luck already. The rest of the run was excellent and we rode down what would become my favorite run on the mountain, Money. The rest of the ride was uneventful but still extremely fun but I was wiped. That would be the last run of the day. I wish my helmet cam had been working so I could post a video of the runs but I couldn't get it to work so I posted a link to a video below of the Keystone Bike Park. The guys in the video are so much better then I am but you can get the idea of what the downhill course looks like. I will be downhilling again in the near future so a video will be posted then! Has anyone else tried this yet? I would love to hear others stories about downhilling especially your reaction to your first runs!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgC9-LGYK08

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More about Africa!

For those of you interested in my African trip I will be posting more soon! Still to come will be more about the Symposium in Eldoret, Kenya, meeting with Maureen Miruka, setting up a laboratory, and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro! I look forward to hearing your comments and about any experiences you have had!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rockin' it Out!



So it took until August but I finally got out rock climbing! One of my favorite places to climb is up near keystone called Haus Rock. Now, I would've liked to start out on an easier climb but my girlfriend Jess had other plans and thought the 5.10 face climb would be a good idea. Let me tell you now, it wasn't! She went first and technically made it...with the aid of some bolts. I on the other hand wanted to climb it legit. This didn't work out so well. I made it through part of the crux but man was it thin! There was literally nothing to grab onto so I understood why Jess used the bolts to help her. After struggling awhile and popping of the rock a few time I decided that I should just traverse over and finish on the 5.8. That worked much better! I felt really good on my first few climbs so I thought it was time to do my first lead of the year and only my second ever. For those of you that aren't climbers, lead climbing is a bit more dangerous. Most of our climbs are usually top-roped which means the rope is fixed at the top of the climb and you can only fall the stretch of the rope. With a lead climb, I would be bringing the rope up with me and clipping into bolts along the way. Once I clip into a bolt, I climb above it until the next bolt. Once above a bolt if you fall, you fall the distance above your last bolt times TWO! Its a little nerve racking but fun. I started on the climb and about 15ft up was a significant bulge. After some maneuvering and thinking I was able to clear the bulge without any falls! I was so excited! The rest of the climb consisted of a large crack all the way to the bolts on top. I made it without any falls! I lead my first 5.8! The pictures to the right are of my lead climb and I cannot wait to do another one!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hemophilia Camp

This past week was Hemophilia Camp and unfortunately I wasn't able to help out for the entire week since I used most of my vacation time on my Africa trip. This dang job thing keeps getting in the way of all my fun lol. Even though I didn't get to go for the entire week I was able to make it for two of my favorite things; infusion training and the leadership peak climb! I woke up early Wednesday morning, packed up the last few things I needed for backpacking, and headed out the door for camp. I got there just in time for infusions and got to help teach some of the younger kids how to infuse. I once again volunteered my arm for practice even though I didn't need my infusion that day. Having an 8 year old go for your arm with a needle is a bit nerve racking but the look on their face when they nail it is awesome! So glad I made it for that.

After infusions we loaded up the BOEC vans and head for our destination; Jacques Peak, a 13,000ft peak just outside of Leadville, CO. Nothing is quite as cool as seeing a big group of hemophiliacs hiking into the wilderness with huge packs on their back! The hike was an arduous one but the views were spectacular! We walked through fields of wild flowers and over streams and even saw a few elk roaming about. Camp was set up with the sun beginning to set and dinner was cooked. My good friend Sean and I decided not to sleep under or tents and hiked up the hill to find a good place to sleep. Laying out under the stars in the middle of the wilderness with all of hemophilia friends was epic!

We woke up early the next morning, about 3:30AM to get ready for our climb. It was my day to infuse and let me tell you, finding a vein with only light from a headlamp and freezing temperatures is not fun! Even with the terrible conditions I let our camp director Amy Board give it a try. I thought it was a bit ridiculous that she spent all this time with hemophiliacs and never infused anyone! Turns out, maybe we should've tried another time cause my veins were not cooperating. I ended up having to infuse my hand but I can't blame Amy for the conditions, she did great. After infusions, we began the hike. Watching the sun come up while climbing was amazing! The hike was fairly easy with just a few rock parts near the summit and everyone did great! We reached the summit around 8:00AM and rested for awhile. I was so proud of everyone for making it and will never forget the experience!

The picture included is of the 3 leadership counselors; Sean, Carlos, and myself and camp director Amy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 1 May 16, 2011 Eldoret, Kenya

After days of travel and watching every movie on the plane we finally reached Kenya. Our last flight was a small jump from Nairobi to Eldoret, our final destination. Exhaustion should've been setting in at this point but sure excitement flowed through my body. Staring out of the window of our plane, the expanse of Africa lay out before us. Beautiful lush forests passed below us with small volcanic mountain protruding every so often. Small until Mt. Kenya, the second tallest peak in Africa, revealed itself outside the windows along the right side of our plane. This massive 18,000ft peak towered above everything and served as a glimpse of what was to come, our climb of the taller Mt. Kilimanjaro. My uncle Dave and I sat in awe. The mountains in Colorado are significantly shorter then Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro anyway, but the fact that these mountains start at a much lower elevation make them even more daunting. I would have to say that even though our climb was still weeks away, a slight tinge of anxiety began to build about our upcoming climb.

Luckily for me, life in Eldoret would keep me occupied from the moment we landed and almost all thoughts of Kilimanjaro left my mind. As we collected our massive piles of baggage containing medical instruments and supplies from the airport, our entire crew piled into vans that would take us to the Indiana University house (aka. IU House). If anyone was tired at this point the drive from the airport should've cured that! I thought driving in the states could be scary but I was sadly mistaken. I'm pretty sure there are no traffic laws or no one follows them! Whoever is the most aggressive wins! In between the moments of shear terror on the roads I was able to look around and catch my first glimpses of real African life. Huts lined the road. Bikes road perilously along the side of the dangerous roads. Children seemed to wander without supervision. I can still clearly picture one boy sitting along the side of road, covered in dirt, no shoes, no adult insight. We're definitely not in the states anymore.

Once we pulled in the "the compound" where the IU house is, the chaos of the African streets subsided. Dave and I were shown to our room which was very nice, two twin beds with mosquito nets. After getting settled we met Dr. Chite Asirwa who is from Kenya and the man responsible for this collaboration. He is a very enthusiastic and determined person and instead of resting the first day he decided we should take a tour of the facilities which included the hospital, AMPATH, Moi University Teaching and Referral Hospital and the Blood Center. In all reality, I expected that the hospital would be much different to what we have in the states but the difference was absolutely shocking. As we entered the adult ward of the hospital, the smell was indescribable. I keep thinking of that smell, trying to figure out what it was, and the only possible description is of decay and filth. We turned the corner to enter where the patients actually stay, a hallway leading to open rooms on either side with 6 to 8 beds with a total of four sets of rooms. Unthinkable amounts of patients were strung about. Most beds contained at least two patients and countless others lay or sat on the floor in between. I wish I could describe the conditions, the smells. Overloaded senses prevented me from being able to focus on the specifics of the hospital but as I looked around I spotted a man lying, screaming in agony, a pile of mucous pooling beside his mouth, flies circling. This man was dying, quickly, and there was nothing that could be done. I felt so hopeless. I never could’ve imagined a place like this before, where humans, people just like me, suffered so much. All I wanted to do was help but there was nothing I could do. Our tour from that point forward was a blur. I could barely tell you what we saw, all I could see in my mind was the ward. Of those on the ward, 80% had HIV and 40% tuberculosis. I couldn’t bare to ask how many ever made it out of there. I’m sure it wasn’t many.

We returned to the IU house after our tour and had some time to reflect upon what we had seen that day. I have to say that experience will stick with me the rest of my life. To bring the situation even closer to home, Dr. Ann Griest, an adult hematologist from IU, had seen a 15 year old boy with hemophilia. He had been admitted to the hospital with abdominal pain several weeks before our arrival and the first thing done was an appendectomy. Unknown to anyone, including the patient, was the fact he had hemophilia. As one may suspect, abdominal surgery without factor is not a good thing. Dr. Griest found him in the surgical ward bleeding everywhere. He was lying on blood covered sheets, his bandages completely soaked through, barely hanging on to life. Dr. Griest took a gamble with some expired factor she had brought with her. She injected this young boy with FVIII, having no clear diagnosis for hemophilia A but knowing that some kind of action needed to be taken to save his life. The gamble worked. His bandages had been changed after Dr. Griest infused him and little bleeding continued. He was getting better. He by no means was out of the woods but he now had a chance. This really hit home for me. What if I wasn’t born where I was? I could easily have been the one lying there, dying. I felt guilty. I was planning on climbing Kilimanjaro for fun and this young boy with the same condition, that lives only hours from the mountain, is just struggling to survive.

My first day in Kenya was a huge wake up call. I had been so na├»ve to others struggles around the world especially those with hemophilia. The pictures below are of the patient with hemophilia I described above. I apologize for their graphic nature but I think it is important to show them and the importance of factor, especially in life or death situations. The first picture (left) is what he looked like when we arrived in Kenya. He was struggling to live and you can visible see the amount of blood loss. He didn’t have much time to live. The next picture is after his first infusion of factor (middle). The bandages were finally changed and it is easy to tell the improvement in bleeding. The final picture is out last day in Kenya (right) and he is almost fully recovered and ready to leave the hospital! Dr. Griest gave him several doses of factor over the two weeks we were there and this truly saved his life!



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Success in Africa

Long time no blog. Well my plan to blog about my Africa trip was thwarted by a lack of consistent internet connection in Eldoret so I will be updating my blog post trip. I did journal alot about my experiences so I will just post once a day from my journal to update everyone. The one spoiler I will divulge is that I made it to the top of Africa!!! At 6:00 A.M. on June 3, 2011 I successfully made it to Uhuru peak (19,340ft) and the top of Kilimanjaro becoming the first hemophiliac from the United States to accomplish this. It was an incredible feeling and can't wait to share it with you all as well as all the rest of my great experiences in Kenya and Tanzania!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The End of Ski Season

So this ski season was slightly disappointing in the fact that I only got up 11 days compared to my 26 last year but I shouldn't be complaining. Of those 11 days over half were epic powder days! I had a great ski trip with friends from college and got to spend some great time with my uncle Dave! For only getting up a few times this year I would have to call the season a huge success. I learned to ski moguls better then ever before and am pretty sure I can ski down almost anything. It my not be pretty but I can get down it. This season was also a huge success as far as bleeds go. I prophylaxed before most ski days and only had a few minor bleeds! Considering the fact that I skied more difficult terrain this year I would have to say that not getting many bleeds is definitely a huge positive! I will be uploading a video of one of our great runs this year at Breckenridge! Its from the run Ore Bucket and there has to be close to a foot of powder! Sorry for the long video, I don't know how to edit yet and thanks to Kyle Fritz for the great fall footage! Next up, mountain biking in Moab April 15th and 16th, hopefully some sweet rock climbing and hiking, then Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Exciting Update

Hello everyone! I haven't posted in awhile but I have some very exciting news! With the help of Laurie Kelley I have been asked to participate in a fundraiser for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro that will benefit those suffering from hemophilia in Africa! The organization putting everything together is called Save One Life and is a fantastic organization that strives to help those with hemophilia that are in need. There are 10 other climbers going in August that are also trying to raise funds including another hemophiliac! Although I won't be climbing with the group we all have the same goal in mind and that is to improve the lives of hemophiliacs. Please visit the website listed below to find out more and hopefully donate a little to our cause. Also, check out the rest of the website since there are so many other ways to help! Thanks for all the support and please feel free to ask me if you have any questions about this!

http://www.saveonelife.net/mt-kilimanjaro-climb.php

Friday, March 25, 2011

Shots for Shots

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of getting all of my shots for my trip for Africa. Turns out I also had to get a shot before my shots as many hemophiliacs could relate to. Infusing isn't a huge deal to me anymore (not saying I like it) but not many people even give a second thought to shots besides maybe not enjoying getting them. I would have to ask my parents to confirm but one of my first bleeds came from immunizations and I have gotten many since. Fortunately, I infused before going getting my yellow fever vaccine and polio booster so no bleed! Does anyone else have stories about having to infuse for vaccinations? Hopefully my mom can add to this also since I can't remember that first bleed very well.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Project Share

Some of you know that I used to work in a research lab where we did a great deal of work with hemophilia. While working there, our lab acquired some expired factor for experiments but we always had an excess of factor that just sat in our fridge. Recently, I went to a great conference in Arizona about hemophilia camps and heard a presentation from Laurie Kelley, a fantastic person that has dedicated her life to helping those with hemophilia in underdeveloped countries. She began talking about the amount of factor we consume and use in this country and the struggles of those unable to get access to adequate care. Hemophilia is still a deadly disorder in those countries and she does whatever she can to send expired factor to these people so they can get some kind of care. After hearing this my thoughts went directly to all of the extra factor we had sitting in our research fridge, wasting away. I knew this could help someone in the world not as fortunate as myself so yesterday, I packaged everything up and shipped it off to Laurie. This factor will no longer sit being wasted and will help someone. Every time I think about this fact I realize how luck I am to live in this country and have access to care. I will never take this fore granted again and even I my toughest days I will always remember someone has it worse. I encourage everyone to visit Laurie site listed below and learn how you can help. We don't all have factor lying around but that is not the only way to give.

http://www.kelleycom.com/projectshare/index.html

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kilimanjaro Update!


So it is now official! I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak! Our climb dates are set for May 29th - June 4th! I am so excited to experience this epic journey and hope everything goes well! We will be climbing the Machame route which is also known as the "Whiskey route". Its the second most popular route and should be an incredible journey. The picture on the left is one of the upper campsites on this route. I am also excited that my uncle Dave will also be coming with me. He is very experienced mountaineer and makes me feel even more confident about this trip. I am still training for my trip and now that it is almost completely set in stone I am starting to realize that I really need to step it up. I will keep you all updated on this and other events coming up such as my mountain biking trip to Moab!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Revisting Self-Infusion

So, the last week has been a very interesting one with many up's and downs. As you probably so from my last post I had some difficulties infusing myself. I'm not sure exactly what happened but I lost most of my confidence in infusing myself. Instead of struggling, the next time I infused I decided to visit with the nurses at the Hemophilia Treatment Center. Going back to basics was exactly what I needed! It's not that I forgot how to infuse, but breaking everything down again really helps relieve the pressure. I was getting so anxious about missing my vein or blowing the vein that all that I could do. With the help of the great nurses at the Hemophilia Center here in Denver I was able to relax, focus, and succeed. Training for Kilimanjaro is back on track and I am really looking forward to this adventure without the fear of not being able to infuse on the mountain! Wish me luck and I will keep you posted about the journey ahead!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Difficult Day One

So day one of training didn't go so hot. I decided to infuse before I worked out yesterday and lets just say I didn't go so smooth. I tried to use my trusty hand vein and it instantly blew. I was discouraged and decided to let my girlfriend give it all try. No luck. I decided to try again....and again...and again. After blowing four hand veins and my girlfriend trying three times I decided on some professional help. My mom is a fabulous nurse and I went to her house where she nailed it on the first try! After eight pokes I was finally able to workout! Lets hope this goes smoother in the future.

Has anyone had similar experiences? This may have been one of the most frustrating and difficult experiences infusing that I have ever had. I would love to hear some helpful hints so this won't happen again!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Training for Kilimanjaro

Well today is the day I begin my training for Kilimanjaro! I've never trained for something like this before so I'm not 100% sure what to do or what to expect but I've decided that P90x should be a good start! With the physical training also comes a unique kind of training, INFUSION TRAINING! Since I don't generally prophylactically treat my hemophilia I have become kind of rusty when it comes to self infusion so with my new workout routine I will also begin infusing 3 times a week! Anyone have any good ideas about becoming a pro at infusing? I really want to get to the point that I don't even have to think about it anymore and can nail it everytime so any advice would be great! Below is a link to get more info on Kili and I will be posting more information about my climb soon!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Kilimanjaro