Editor’s note: Because Purpose2Play has been telling the stories of athletes, coaches, and fans for more than three years, we figure it’s about time to catch up with some of them to find out where they are now. As you’ll see, they’re still inspiring others and making the world a better place to live in.
Where Are They Now? Catching Up with Chris Bombardier (“Mountaineer and Hemophiliac Chris Bombardier to Conquer Highest Summit on Each Continent”)
Many of us will never have the courage to climb mountains, let alone summit the tallest peak on the planet.
Chris Bombardier, 31, is not like most of us. On May 22, 2017, at 9:59am, the humanitarian from Denver, Colo. conquered Mt. Everest, his sixth summit on his way to completing the Seven Summits Challenge, which involves climbing the highest peak on each continent.
As the first person with hemophilia to summit the world’s tallest mountain, his expedition won the hearts of the hemophilia and bleeding disorders community across the world.
Bombardier was diagnosed as a child with severe Hemophilia B, or factor IX (FIX) deficiency. The diagnosis means that his blood has less than one percent of the FIX his blood needs to form a clot. It also means he has an increased risk of bleeding into his muscle tissue if injured, and bleeds may occur spontaneously. This difference in blood clotting means he must be cautious.
A bruise from bumping into a chair, or small cut from a shaving may not heal correctly for people with hemophilia unless they are able to receive infusions. In the developed parts of the world, having access to regular infusions is what enables those with hemophilia to live normal and full lives.
One in 5,000 Male Births
Though he has a rare and challenging bleeding disorder, what really makes Bombardier exceptional is his indomitable spirit.
To tackle an extreme sport like mountain climbing, Bombardier plays it smart and stays focused on his goals with each step. A bad bruise from a slip could sideline him in basecamp for a day or more, so he must continue his infusion schedule while climbing.
Of course, none of this has stopped him from chasing his dreams. He shows others that those with bleeding disorders in developing countries are unlikely to have a similar opportunity without aid.
Without regular infusions, hemophilia can cause debilitating pain, and eventually, lead to death. Half of the children with severe hemophilia in developing countries die before they even reach the age of 10. Simply having access to healthcare and the necessary factor treatments makes hemophilia a manageable disorder instead of a death sentence.
Hemophilia is rare, occurring in about one of every 5,000 male births. The CDC estimates approximately 20,000 males in the United States have the blood clotting disorder. Hemophilia requires lifelong treatment, and there is no cure. Sadly, an estimated 75% of hemophiliacs worldwide receive inadequate treatment or are unable to access any treatment at all. Increasing awareness of this tragedy and working to amend it is what drives Bombardier.
Totaling climbers from both Nepal and Tibet, Bombardier became one of just over 600 people to summit Mt. Everest this year. There have been thousands who have scaled the summit since 1953, and in the 64 years of recorded summits, there have also been hundreds of deaths. The dangers faced on Everest are only transcended by its haunting beauty.
To take on Everest is an extraordinary feat. On the summit, there is 66 percent less oxygen than at sea level, and mountaineers burn more than 10,000 calories a day. By comparison, running a marathon burns 2,000 to 3,500 calories. Those who make the climb up Everest often lose 10 to 20lbs of their body weight due to the strenuous nature of the route to the summit.
One of 600 People a Year
Bombardier’s expedition began from Everest basecamp on April 18th.
To document the historic climb, Bombardier partnered with fellow hemophiliac, Patrick James Lynch, and his film production company, Believe Ltd. Their documentary is called, “Bombardier Blood.”
On the mountain, Bombardier made his highest infusion at over 20,000ft.
On Adventures of a Hemophiliac, Bombardier said, “It was a rest day and I just wanted to chill like everyone else, but as I looked at our climb we were headed to the next morning, I knew I had to do it. The infusion wasn’t the smoothest, the vein rolled and I initially missed, but then I recovered. I felt incredibly proud of this infusion and I realize how lucky I am to be able to choose this adventure and journey, and have the access to the treatment I need to let me chase this dream.”
On summit day, May 22nd, a nearly vertical formation of rock and ice known as the South Summit came into view, and for the first time Bombardier felt afraid. Seeing the Hillary Step, with an 8,000-foot drop to the left and a 10,000-foot drop to the right, he had reached a visually overwhelming obstacle.
“For the first time I thought, I can’t do this,” Bombardier said. “It was so intimidating. That’s when Tashi Sherpa caught up to me and said, ‘You have a purpose. You can do this. We can do this together.’”
He described the experience of reaching the summit as “surreal” and one of the best moments of his life.
Two days after the final push, Bombardier posted about the summit on Facebook.
“I turned to Tashi and asked if we made it, and he confirmed it was the summit. I immediately thought of the banner in my pocket. Not just because it represents Save One Life, Inc., not only because it was signed by all my new NHS – Nepal Hemophilia Society friends, but because it represents our entire community. No longer can anyone say that someone with hemophilia can’t climb Everest with proper treatment, training and medical care. By standing there, I hope to show what we should be striving for. Not that everyone should climb mountains (although I do believe the outdoors are for everyone) but that everyone should be able to shoot for their dreams.”
Across the world, only about 25 percent of those affected by hemophilia have access to required factor treatments. With his successful summit of Everest, Bombardier is showing and telling the world that by providing treatment for the remaining 75 percent of those living with the bleeding disorder, they, too, can follow their dreams.
One of 232 in the World
The experience of summiting Mount Everest taught Bombardier the importance of being mindful of the present and patient on the journey — Lessons he plans to carry with him as he closes out his Seven Summits challenge.
As you may remember from our previous coverage of Bombardier’s climbs, his push to conquer the Seven Summits has been to raise support for the Save One Life charity, which helps sponsor children and adults living with bleeding disorders in developing countries.
In 2011, Bombardier became the first hemophiliac from the United States to reach the Uhuru peak at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was also this trip that opened his eyes to the reality hemophiliacs in developing countries are faced with. His personal experience with the disorder, and desire to raise awareness for hemophiliacs in developing areas of the world is what inspired him to take on a Seven Summits.
To date, he has conquered six of the seven summits. In addition to Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft) in Africa, he has climbed Aconcagua (22,838 ft) in South America, Mt. Elbrus (18,510 ft) in Europe, Denali (20,322 ft) in North America, Carstensz Pyramid (16,024 ft) in the Papua Province in Indonesia, and most recently, Mt. Everest (29,028 ft) in Asia.
The final mountain to tackle is Mt. Vinson (16,050 ft ) on Antarctica, which he plans to climb within the year.
With the addition of Mt. Vinson, Bombarider will become one of just 232 people in the world to scale the highest peak on each continent.
In the not so distant past, those born with hemophilia were treated like fragile and extremely limited individuals. In 2017, Chris Bombardier is crashing through the stereotypes and proving that having a bleeding disorder doesn’t have to hold anyone back. After summiting the highest mountain on the planet, the sky is literally the limit for Bombardier (Of course, if he becomes interested in space exploration, all bets are off.)
You can follow the adventure at Adventures of a Hemophiliac and to show your support, please consider donating to Save One Life, Inc. Through Save One Life, when you sponsor someone struggling with hemophilia in a developing country, 100 percent of your money goes to that family.