This family beat medical odds to climb the highest mountain in Africa. They set a record.
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Cigna 2017

Sarah Getter rouses her kids out of bed and gets them ready for school every single morning. But on this day, she woke them up at 11 o’clock at night.

There was no school that day, and they were in a tent in Africa, getting ready to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The final night of their hike had to be done at night because humans should only be at the summit for 20 minutes or risk altitude sickness. Plus, the best time to see the view from the top is at sunrise.


So, on one cold, dark night in 2015, the Getter family — Sarah, her husband, Bobby, and their kids, Roxy and Ben — all rolled out of their tents and prepped themselves for the final hike to the top.

All images via Sarah Getter, used with permission.

“It’s kind of terrible, that whole last night,” Sarah laughs. “It’s so cold and dark, and you just feel like you’re never gonna make it."

But a few hours later, the Getters did indeed reach the top — making Roxy, who was 9 at the time, the youngest girl ever to complete the climb.

Also impressive? Roxy and Ben were both born with heart issues that could make it really easy to turn down this sort of challenge. But they didn't let that hold them back all.

“It was incredible. We were so proud of them,” Sarah says, of Roxy and Ben, who was 10. “For my husband and I ... it was very emotional.”

For most families, even a trip to Disney World with the kids can feel like a barely accomplishable feat of superhuman strength. But for the Getters, bringing the kids to the fourth highest mountaintop on Earth was surprisingly manageable.

“They really did it for themselves,” she says. “We didn’t push them. They didn’t whine or complain. They wanted to do it. And that was really neat, to see your kids accomplish something like that.”

“We didn’t go into it saying ‘We’re all gonna make it to the top’,” Sarah says. “We went into it saying, ‘We’re gonna be safe and do the best we can, and if we make it to the top, that’s amazing.’" And that's exactly what they did.

Of course, safety was an especially important concern for the Getters because their kids' heart conditions already require frequent check-ups.

Roxy was born with an atrial septal defect, a small hole in her heart that had to be closed by a surgeon when she was a baby. Ben has a less serious, much more common condition called a patent foramen ovale — also a heart hole, but a smaller one that just requires monitoring.

Along with the regular packing and planning, Sarah had to make sure she got her kids the preventive check-ups they needed to make the hike safe for them.

“I would never have taken the trip without getting confirmation from the doctor,” she says. “We like to be adventurous, but in a safe way.”

All adults should see a doctor at least once a year to ensure a healthy heart and overall wellness. But Ben and Roxy have been seeing a cardiologist since they were babies because it’s super important that the family keeps an eye on the kids’ heart health so they can catch any issues early.

“But we knew this was something completely different than we’d ever done," Sarah says. "I just really wanted to make sure that we were making the right decision, and we wouldn’t be putting them in harm’s way.”

"We made sure we took every precaution that we could," says Sarah. Her husband is a physician, and they traveled with another doctor. They also picked a trekking company they trusted, packed every possible medication, and came prepared to get the kids off the mountain if they had needed to.

In the end, it all turned out fine — neither of the kids got “even one ounce” of altitude sickness.

The only Getter who did get sick was Sarah. "Day 3, I was just extremely nauseous and not feeling very good at all," she laughs.  The kids, on the other hand, were right as rain.

Still, the family's cautiousness was what kept the kids safe — and gave Sarah peace of mind.

So what's next for a family who's already summited Kilimanjaro?

"You know what, we don't have anything so adventurous planned yet," says Sarah. But Roxy and Ben continue to be adventurers, taking on gymnastics, soccer, horseback riding, hiking, surfing, and more.

"The kids — they're not afraid of things," Sarah says. And thanks to their parents' steady commitment to getting their health checked, they have no reason to be.

Roxy and Ben are free to be adventurers, and their parents are free to come along for the ride. "We try a lot of different things. And it's always a lot of fun."

Though the Getters have a special reason to be strict about getting their heart health checked, everyone should do the same when it comes to knowing their four health numbers — blood sugar, cholesterol, Body Mass Index (BMI) and blood pressure — and schedule regular preventive check-ups with your doctor, even if you don't think you have pre-existing health issues.

As Sarah can attest, it's always better to be prepared before an emergency arises (whether or not it happens on the top of a mountain).

Learn more about how to take control of your health at Cigna.com/TakeControl.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

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All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

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Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Kara Coley, a bartender at Sipps in Gulfport, Mississippi, got an unusual phone call on the job last week.

Photo courtesy of Kara Coley.

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