Chris Bombardier has never let severe hemophilia stop him. On January 6, 2018, Chris became the first person with hemophilia – and one of less than 500 people ever – to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each continent. “I’ll never forget standing on that final summit, taking in the moment despite the howling wind. I couldn’t believe I’d done it,” said Chris. In 2017, Chris partnered with Patrick James Lynch and his award-winning production team at Believe Limited to film his journey through Nepal to summit the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest.
In December of last year, Great Lakes Hemophilia Foundation (GLHF) had the honor to host Chris Bombardier for two special screenings of his documentary film, Bombardier Blood. Families and people living with hemophilia and other bleeding disorders came from all over Wisconsin to view the film, which has not been released commercially.
“As an organization that educates, supports and advocates for the bleeding disorders community of Wisconsin, we were so fortunate to have Chris personally come here to show his film and share his experiences,” said Danielle Leitner Baxter, GLHF’s Executive Director. “Bombardier Blood is inspirational and sends a powerful message – that with the proper support and guidance, we can all accomplish our dreams and live physical, healthy lives.”
Chris’s journey to climb the Seven Summits began in 2011 during a trip to Kenya to help set up a diagnostic laboratory and clinic that he said changed his life. “I had never been to a developing country before, and I had certainly never seen what untreated hemophilia in developing countries looked like,” he said. “That experience broadened my perspective and gave me a mission that I’ve been on ever since: to use my energy, skills and platform to address the profound disparity of hemophilia care between developed and developing countries.”
So for the past seven years, Chris dedicated himself to climbing the Seven Summits while raising money and securing child sponsorships for Save One Life, an international non-profit, which assists people with hemophilia in developing countries, and where Chris has now taken on the position of Executive Director.
Chris could not believe the support he received from people all over the world on social media – people who learned about his journey on his Facebook site, Adventures of a Hemophiliac – Chris Bombardier, @AdventuresOfAHemophiliac, and started following his experiences and adventures. “I’m proud to say that fundraisers connected to my climbs raised well over $100,000 and led to over 100 children with hemophilia in developing countries acquiring financial sponsorship. I’m proud of these accomplishments, though there is still much work to be done,” said Chris.
Chris’s Seven Summits mission was deeply personal, particularly his Mount Everest climb, which took nearly two months and tested him both physically and emotionally. Summiting Everest is no small feat for anyone. Climbers must be in peak physical shape to withstand the rigors of performing at an extremely high altitude. Preparing for his previous climbs, Chris searched the web for “mountaineering training” and came up with a strength and conditioning plan. For Everest, he knew that method would not be enough. He hired a coach, and they developed an exercise program that took into account his bleeding disorder.
Physical preparation was only one concern, though. He also knew that his hemophilia would be a challenge, as a bleed during a climb could lead to a very serious situation. The cold temperatures on Everest did require special preparation. To prevent his factor from freezing, Chris wrapped it in wool socks and kept it close to his body as he climbed. At night, he slept with it in his sleeping bag so his body health would keep it warm.
Into his final day of climbing Mount Everest to the 29,029-foot summit, Chris sat down and was ready to give up. He still had to conquer the most difficult and intimidating section of the ascent – a narrow, near-vertical rock face called the Hillary Step, which has drops which are many thousands of feet into nothingness on both sides. He tried to convince himself he’d made it far enough and that if he turned back, everyone would still be proud of him and that he would be proud of himself. But Chris’s Sherpa, Tashi, said, “Chris, you’re not done. You’re here for a reason. You have a mission. You can do this.” So he moved on and conquered the Hillary Step – reaching the top of the world.
That day, Chris, who has severe Hemophilia B, not only entered an elite mountaineering club, but also made history as the first person with hemophilia to reach the world’s tallest mountain. At the summit, Chris took it all in. “To actually be there was surreal, and it’s so hard to describe the emotions I felt,” he said. “I was proud that I did it and that I could share it with the hemophilia community.”
Through his accomplishments, Chris conveys a powerful message. “Don’t let your bleeding disorder be an excuse to not pursue your dream, whatever it might be,” he says. “Find your passion and your drive. If you pursue it in a smart way, you can chase any dream you have.”
The Seven Summits: The tallest peaks on each of the seven continents:
· Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa, 19,341 feet
· Aconcagua, South America, 22,837 feet
· Mt. Elbrus, Europe, 15,554 feet
· Denali, North America, 20,310 feet
· Carstensz Pyramid, Oceania, 16,024 feet
· Mt. Everest, Asia, 29,029 feet
· Mt. Vinson, Antarctica, 16,050 feet
Chris thanks and credits Wolfgang Marguerre and Octapharma for supporting his Vinson and Everest climbs, and for supporting his book, Bombardier Blood; Laurie Kelley, founder and president of Save One Life, for her mentorship and guidance; Believe Limited for producing and managing both Bombardier Blood and his book, The Seven Summits; GutMonkey and Ryan Waters of Mountain Professionals; and his family and wife, Jess.
Sources: Bombardier Blood; The Seven Summits; BombardierBlood.com; AdventuresOfAHemophiliac.com; SaveOneLife.net; and HemAware.