For me, deciding to apply to join the Kilimanjaro One Kidney Climb team was a lot like the decision to donate my left kidney – I was scrolling through Facebook one evening and saw a post about it and thought, “Oh! I HAVE to do that!” (Hey, who says social media is all bad?)
For more than a decade – and prior to donating – I’d always strived to take on one really big challenge a year, to honor my father, who died of a heart attack at age 28. Yes, the kidney donation was definitely one of those challenges, and probably the best decision of my life. So, when the opportunity presented itself to take on the tallest freestanding mountain in the world while advocating for increased living donation, it was all in.
Through the course of these previous challenges, I was certainly no stranger to a training plan (though I still hesitate to consider myself an “athlete”), but I knew that training for this would look a bit different than previous marathon or triathlon work (Have I mentioned I live in Kansas? Not exactly known for our elevation…). Though a bit tedious at first, it’s been fun to trade in the COVID-inspired Peloton for hiking boots and the real world! Most weekends, you can now find me – weighted pack in tow – walking our local trails or hitting the incline on my treadmill at home (who could have ever imagined I’d have a cause to learn that 15% incline is the max!).
During these practice hikes, I’ve occasionally had the cause to wish I were somewhere else – say, having a drink with friends
in the warm indoors! – but I’m always reminded that for patients in kidney failure, there is no “off day” for them. Knowing that we’re representing them, while working towards a day when no one will die waiting on a new kidney, is pretty incredible motivation.
In addition to the excitement of training (and getting to buy so much really cool-looking gear!), my favorite part of this adventure so far has been getting to know my teammates. I’ve never in my life been in a room (or on a zoom call) when every other person knows exactly what it’s like to donate a kidney – how amazing is that?! And now that we’re closing in on our trip, I can’t wait to share this experience with them (this is where I resist the urge to quote the Wizard of Oz about not being in Kansas anymore).
Onward to Uhuru Peak!!
Stephanie’s story was recently featured in NBC affiliate KSHB News in Kansas City as well as ABC affiliate KMBC News.