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Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014


Pittsburrgh Post-Gazette: Mount Kilimanjaro climb became breathless adventure

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

By Jack Kelly, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jessica Lazar climbed a mountain to see what pulmonary hypertension feels like, and that's exactly what happened.

Ms. Lazar is a physician assistant at Allegheny General Hospital, where she works with Ray Benza on the hospital's cardiovascular clinical care team. In February, Ms. Lazar, Dr. Benza and another physician who works with patients suffering from pulmonary hypertension, Bob Frantz of the Mayo Clinic, joined a group that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

The highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is 19,330 feet high. Climbers go through five climate zones -- from rain forest to arctic -- before they reach the summit.

The zone before arctic is alpine desert.

"You really feel like you are on the moon," Ms. Lazar told the Pittsburgh PH Support Group at the group's April meeting. "There is nothing alive."

Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs, which can lead to heart failure. The chief symptom is shortness of breath. Others are fatigue, dizziness and chest pain.

Climbers at altitudes above 10,000 feet can experience pulmonary hypertension, because oxygen decreases with altitude, and lungs constrict.

Drs. Benza and Frantz and Ms. Lazar climbed the mountain in part to raise money for pulmonary hypertension research and in part to experience, briefly, what their patients experience every day.

There is currently no cure for pulmonary hypertension, but there are a number of treatments that can mitigate the effects of the disease. Drs. Benza and Frantz and Ms. Lazar raised $114,000 for pulmonary hypertension research.

Ms. Lazar earned every penny of it. The climb is difficult because the mountain is so high. Sixty percent of those who attempt it fail to reach the summit.

"We would grow short of breath tying our shoes," Ms. Lazar said.


To read more, visit the Post-Gazette website.


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