Thursday, November 20, 2008

Higher and Higher

The preface to this post is that I've outlived my father, his brother, one male cousin on my father's side. My father had his first heart attack at 47, as did his brother, as did two of my three male cousins. So you can see that my father's side of the family is fraught with health issues.
In 2001, I realized that I had a significant birthday coming up, and decided that I wanted to do something meaningful to reaffirm the fact that I was still alive, and was planning to stay alive and active and healthy for a very long time. I decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Well, not climb, because Uhuru, as it is known to the local Masai, requires no technical climbing to get to the summit, no ropes, no ice axes, no pitons, just the physical strength and the mental toughness to walk uphill for days on end. I traveled with an organized tour, shared a tent with the only other CPA on the mountain, earned the sobriquet Babu (a term of respect and endearment, meaning Grandpa), became the poky puppy early on, and summitted, reaching the roof of Africa after untold difficulties and superhuman efforts. I framed my certificate proudly, and look at it every day as I sit down to work.
I applaud the efforts and achievements of Anne Curry and her team in reaching 15,700 feet. She's right when she says that they were on the hill at the wrong time of the year...perhaps broadcast journalism required her to do make this journey live, and not film ahead and put it in the can for later broadcast. Even with days for acclimitization added into the mix, it's frighteningly difficult, no doubt about it.
What I don't understand is why none of her crew took any medication to combat the altitude sickness. This isn't one of those purist discussions, like climbing Everest without oxygen. Everybody that I've ever known has taken medication to combat the effects of the altitude on cranial pressure, whether it's Diamox(which was originally invented as a kidney medication) or some other substance. Even some of our less experienced Masai porters took pills as we climbed above 16,000 feet.
I only tuned in to the climb the last few days, so perhaps I missed the explanation of non-medicating which might have been given earlier in the series. Can anyone enlighten me as to whether a conscious decision was made, and discussed on air, as to why not taking the medication was the option chosen?

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