Last night, everyone in camp went to bed at 9:00 since our wake-up
call would be at 3:30 to hit the trail at 5:00 am.
I didn't sleep. I was too anxious. I was worried because I didn't know what
to expect, and how I was going to feel.
So I sat in my sleeping bag, shivering next to Christian (who was sleeping).
We got up, and my contacts had frozen in their solution in the case.
I stumbled into the mess tent, and one of the porters had hot water
prepared, so I soaked my case in the water, praying they would thaw and
not break. I didn't have backup contacts since in an emergency on day three
I had used my backups.
Barafu camp was cold.
I wore my bib snow pants.
My hands and feet were FREEZING!
I added heat warmers to my mittens and inside my hiking boots.
Mentally I was prepared, though.
I was tough, and I was so ready.
I kept quiet most of the hike, keeping my breathing steady and stable.
I moved with purpose and power.
I was going to the top.
After a few hours, the sunrise hit the trail, and everything
had a glow. It was breathtaking!
Shortly after the sun hit me, I felt a slight thaw in my body and
took my heat warmers out of my boots.
My hands were still cold.
The group took frequent breaks, which really helped with the headaches.
When I could sense the top was coming, I pushed it. Hard.
I wanted to prove to myself that I could finish this at my best.
We made it to Stella Point and waited for the whole group to get there
so we could touch the milestone sign altogether.
We walked triumphantly together, but I couldn't walk any longer,
I ran to the sign to hit it with my hands and all the energy I could muster.
I was overwhelmed, but I did it!
And I was proud of my performance. I stayed focused, worked hard,
and never waivered.
But the best part was being with Christian, who stayed close
behind me, cheering me on as he always does.
And together, we climbed with the other burn survivors
sharing this joyous celebration of life and second chances!
The team leader checked all of our pulses to be sure we were healthy enough
to climb to Uhuru Peak, which sits at 19,340 feet, and is
the tallest point on the mountain.
It was pretty miraculous and desolate up there,
with steep ice glaciers surrounding it on all sides.
At the top, I took out a photo I had been saving.
It was of me when I was at my lowest in the hospital.
Me when I was dying.
Or maybe I was dead clinging to life with the help of monitors.
It's hard to tell.
There is no life in me when I see that photo.
But I love this photo because even though it's horrifying to look at,
it's also beautiful simply because I overcame it.
Just like the magnificent phoenix, I burned away,
then regenerated and grew back
with more life, more purpose, and more color.
I showed the photo to Dr. Foster, who saved my life
as one of the surgeons on my team.
We both broke down.
I was honored to be walking alongside him on this journey.
He's one of my heroes.
We took photos of our group and with the little nicknacks our kids
asked us to take to the top. We also took a picture of ourselves holding
a flag with our sponsor's name, Vericel.
Vericel was the company out of Boston that made skin grafts.
Their technology saved my legs, and I owe them SO MUCH!
I am so grateful they helped Christian and me complete this epic journey!
We gathered a dirt sample for Gigs to take home
and tried to call the Nies in North Carolina.
It was 4:00 am, and I was worried they wouldn't hear the phone.
But sadly, our satellite phone wasn't connecting anyway.
We didn't linger long at the top since breathing was heavy,
and our heads were throbbing.
We began our descent back to camp for lunch, then on to
the Millennium Campsite at 12,700 feet.
We did over 15 hours of hiking today.
My feet hurt.