Climbing to new heights after kidney donation

This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore, columns by local and former residents about their lives. 

Holland native Emily Polet-Monterosso climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a group of other “one-kidney climbers” from the nonprofit Kidney Donor Athletes. 

At nearly 20,000 feet above sea-level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world. The dormant volcano is part of Tanzenea’s Kilimanjaro National Park and is a major climbing destination.
 Of the 22 one-kidney climbers who tackled Mount Kilimanjaro earlier this month, 20 summitted the peak of the world's tallest single free-standing mountain.


Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest single free-standing mountain in the world. Holland native Emily Polet-Monterosso climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a group of other “one-kidney climbers” from the nonprofit Kidney Donor Athletes.
Polet-Monterosso wants people to know: “There is nothing you can’t do after a kidney donation.”

“People who donate a kidney are able to do fantastic, amazing things post-donation,” Polet-Monterosso told the Lakeshore West Michigan earlier this year.

In her own words, this is what she had to say after the climb:

I did not summit Kilimanjaro — out of 22 kidney donors from our group who made the climb, 20 summitted.
“People who donate a kidney are able to do fantastic, amazing things post-donation,” Emily Polet-Monterosso says.The nonprofit Kidney Donor Athletes set out to prove people who donate a kidney can go on to do amazing things by climbing the highest single free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro.The nonprofit Kidney Donor Athletes set out to prove people who donate a kidney can go on to do amazing things by climbing the highest single free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro.
Myself and Kidney Donor Athletes President Bobby McLaughlin did not summit. Bobby had a fever on summit night, which prevented him from making it to the top, and I struggled with altitude sickness for most of the climb and was going on four days without any food at the time that the group attempted the summit. My pulse oximeter reading was 77, which meant that the group was not going to allow me to summit for safety reasons.

As a result, I waited at Barafu base camp (approximately 15,000 feet above sea level) for my teammates to return from the summit so that we could all descend together. Neither my nor Bobby's inability to summit had anything to do with our status as one-kidneyed people. Both situations were a result of circumstances relating to the difficulty of the climb that could have been experienced by any other two-kidneyed climber.
Emily Polet-Monterosso was among 22 single-kidney climbers to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro earlier this month.
Not having summitted does not in any way negatively impact the experience I had. I still engaged in the most challenging physical feat of my life for eight days, and I feel nothing but pride in what I've accomplished. I also feel extreme pride in my teammates for the effort and attitude they all brought forth. I have never spent such a large amount of time in intimately close quarters with a more encouraging, upbeat, inspirational group of people. Additionally, the support staff from our guide company, Embark Exploration Co., deserves the highest praise for the job they did in getting us all safely up and down the mountain again. 
Emily Polet-Monterosso hopes her Mount Kilimanjaro climb will inspire others to donate a kidney.
Our mission was to prove to ourselves and anybody watching us that you can donate a kidney and still experience life fully and without negative health consequences. We believe we accomplished that mission, and our deepest hope is that someone heard about it and considers donation themselves. If even one life is saved as a result of our efforts, every ounce of difficulty we navigated will have paid off, and then some.