The idea for the adventure started in May 2013, when my daughter Tammy approached me about doing a nursing elective at a medical clinic in Tanzania. (Tammy is in the accelerated nursing program at NYU and they are encouraged to do an elective during their vacation time). Coming from Africa as I do, I immediately said to Tammy “if you go to Tanzania, you should climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, as you will be right there”. On my suggestion, Tammy did her independent research. A couple of weeks later she told me she really wanted to do this. However she told me she did not want to do it alone and she requested that I do it with her. I had never previously contemplated climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, but was intrigued at the prospect. Before committing, I undertook my own research. I spoke with friends who had done it and I read extensively. The decision ultimately made itself because the adventure represented a unique opportunity to have a significant bonding experience with my daughter, while simultaneously being able to learn a lot, pursue active fitness during the preparation phase and work towards an exciting goal, — hopefully culminating in reaching the Roof of Africa – the continent of my birth, in my 60th year.
As our plans materialized, and as more people joined our group – 3 friends of Tammy, my wife Teresa and our friend and colleague Colleen, I became more engaged with each passing day. In anticipation of seeing stars and planets like never before, I started to learn about astronomy, weather patterns, hiking and mountain climbing, as well as aspects of medicine I had never studied before, such as altitude sickness. Simultaneously, I watched with pride as Tammy and her fellow nursing colleagues became immersed in their volunteer mission to Tanzania. I was constantly reminded of our countless blessings compared to the ravages of poverty, malnutrition, infectious diseases such as HIV, TB, malaria and gastroenteritis, which affect so many in Africa. I witnessed and became involved in helping these nursing volunteers raise funds and gather donated medical supplies for their mission. I ultimately came to view the climb as a symbol of the struggles of so many less fortunate people in the world; including our own patients who struggle with the ravages of infertility – one of the most basic and powerful of all human emotions.
For me the climb has come to symbolize many things. It symbolizes taking hope to new heights. It embodies family, friendship, endurance, dealing with the elements and routine daily struggles. In the words of Ernest Hemingway from The Snows of Kilimanjaro, “There, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that was where he was going.” Life can be a challenge at times. However, when facing challenges of whatever kind, it is important to believe in oneself, remain focused, be patient, involve loved ones and take small steps toward the ultimate goal and to try to remain positive, hopeful and optimistic along the way.