Shortly after New Year’s Day, 44th Street SPEAR graduate Teresa Randolph had reached her goal. She stood atop 19,341 feet of earth and stone, holding a SPEAR banner and grinning ear to ear after climbing to the summit of Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.
If you ask Teresa how she got to Uhuru Peak, the warm and affable Patient Relations Director at New York Fertility Services will tell you, “Polé, polé” – a Swahili term for “slowly, slowly” that became the mantra for Teresa’s road to and up what she now affectionately calls “Kili.”
44th Street’s Cathy Campbell first got to know Teresa last summer, when she was referred to SPEAR for post-surgery rehab on what was a full-thickness tear of her right rotator cuff and right bicep. No stranger to injury, Teresa had already survived a broken foot (for which she underwent 3 separate surgeries) and a broken left arm (which required a plate and 12 screws to reset the bone).
“After surgery I was in a lot of pain,” says Teresa of her recovery, “I had so much pain just typing or even sleeping. We (Teresa and her husband, Dr. Joel Batzofin, founder of New York Fertility Services) decided to do the Kili climb in May, so when I got to Cathy, I told her about my goal she said, ‘Yup, we’ll get you there.'”
During 3 months of strengthening and range of motion exercises, Teresa worked to regain full use of her right arm and was cleared to begin preparing for her climb in the Fall. Teresa and her husband trained via outdoor and indoor hikes with their backpacks. “At the gym there’s actually a ‘Kilimanjaro’ setting on the machines, so people would come in and see us on the stairs or the elliptical wearing full backpacks.”
Teresa credits the work she did with Cathy for an astonishingly pain-free 9 day climb (7 days up and 2 days down), from base to summit and back again. “I did have pain meds on me, but I didn’t take a single one,” says Teresa. “Another one of the hikers had also suffered a rotator cuff tear, but had sort of let it go. We really didn’t think she was going to make it. With her arm in bad shape, and the change in air pressure as we climbed, it was a really rough experience for her. On the second day, Joel was shocked that I wasn’t in any pain at all. I really have Cathy to thank for that.”
Teresa says the most challenging portion of the climb was the Barranco Wall. “This was the one place- and there are several places during the climb that feel dangerous- but this was the one place where you think, ‘If I slip I can die here.’ It was a straight, vertical climb and was my least favorite. The camping nights were also rough. It’s cold and you’re sleeping on a slant, so you don’t really get a lot of sleep.”
Still, Teresa describes reaching the summit well-worth the amount of preparation and diligent work of day-long treks and months-long rehabilitation. “When we finally reached the summit, I felt such… relief,” Teresa says with a laugh, “I mean the night before you feel a lot of trepidation, asking yourself if you can handle the altitude up there. You’re at 17,000 feet on the day before you climb to the summit, so you’ve already come so far. When we got to Uhuru Peak I just felt so… exhilarated, hugely proud, and had such a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
When we asked Teresa if “back to life” to her meant the Kilimanjaro climb, she said, “You know, this was definitely a goal, and I’m proud of reaching any of my goals, but really back to life to me meant being able to get through my work without pain. It meant being able to sleep without pain and just doing the every day things. ”
For more pictures from Teresa’s climb up Kili, check out our SPEAR Flickr album: Back to Life: Teresa Randolph Climbs Mount Kilimanjaro