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From Spinal Pain to Mountain Gain: Climbing Kilimanjaro for a Cause
In the summer of 2020, at the peak of the pandemic, I faced one of the more challenging periods of my life. The first time I ever left my apartment since March was on the back of my partner, carrying me downstairs while I was in tears, rushing me to the ER. A blood clot (DVT) had formed in my right leg, which was later identified as part of a larger clotting disorder. As I navigated my apartment on crutches in the subsequent weeks, I began to experience severe lower back pain. A CT scan, initially intended to further investigate the DVT, unexpectedly revealed a pronounced crack in my spine and degenerative tissue between my lower lumbar and sacrum. Due to the severity of my condition, my bones were grinding against each other, leading to debilitating pain and widespread inflammation.
Initially, back surgery was the only option. But, with the healthcare system overwhelmed, it wasn't immediately feasible. I turned to rigorous physical therapy and was prescribed a potent regimen of pain medications. As someone who's long grappled with weight and body image, this limitation in mobility had both a physical and emotional toll. Yet, seeing the far more significant suffering during the pandemic provided perspective. I committed to staying positive, as best I could, and persevere. I worked hard at physical therapy and set milestones to stay motivated, like walking a mile on a flat road, achieved about six months after my first session. In November 2021, I consulted a nutritionist to alleviate some stress on my compromised spine through weight loss. All the while, I held off on surgery, focusing on building core strength to co-exist with my injury.
Fast forward to today—fueled by determination and grit, I’m embarking on an epic adventure in Africa, my favorite continent, to hike Mount Kilimanjaro—the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, spanning 19,341 feet, in 7 days.
This isn't just a personal endeavor, it's a purpose-driven mission. I'm dedicating my climb to Charity: Water, a nonprofit addressing the global water crisis. Before my health challenges, I took my mobility for granted, much like many of us in the US take for granted access to clean water.
I share my story, raw and uncomfortable, in hopes that it resonates, and I invite you to join me in this mission. No one should suffer or lose their life due to a lack of clean water. Whether through donations or spreading the word, your support can make an enormous difference. Together, let's make an impact.
Kili is the highest point in Africa with an elevation of 19,341 feet (5,895 meters)
It's the world's highest free-standing mountain, meaning it is not part of a mountain range, which is why the dramatic rise from the surrounding plains is so pronounced!
It has 5 unique climate zones:
- Rainforest (2,800 - 9,200 ft): Lush and humid--offers a chance to see monkeys, colorful birds, and vibrant flora.
- Moorland (9,200 - 13,100 ft): More open with shrubs, heathers, and mosses. Temperatures can drop significantly at night!
- High Desert (13,100 - 16,400 ft): Sparse vegetation and more extreme temperature fluctuations.
- Alpine Desert (16,400 - 19,300 ft): A barren landscape with rocks, ice, and some hardy flora. Air gets significantly thinner.
- Arctic (19,300 ft and above): At the summit, temperatures can be below freezing (-20*F). Characterized by ice fields, glaciers, and the stunning Uhuru Peak.
+ At the summit, the oxygen level is about 50% of what it is at sea level. This makes breathing more laborious
Hugs and support from the Gano's, you got this!!!
Go crush it. One step at a time <3
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