Tennis legend Martina Navratilova is recovering in a Nairobi hospital after having to halt prematurely her attempt to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Martina, who was leading a team of 27 climbers to raise funds for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation charity, was taken ill on the fourth day of the climb up the 19,341 ft mountain in Tanzania.
She was assisted down the mountain by porters and driven to the nearby Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre for assessment, then, as a precaution, she was flown to the Nairobi Hospital for further tests which showed she was suffering from high altitude pulmonary oedema – an accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
Dr David Silverstein, consultant in cardiology and internal medicine at the Nairobi Hospital, said: “Basically this is fluid in the lungs related to high altitude. It is potentially dangerous when someone is at high altitude, but once brought down, recovery is quick. Martina is doing well and will continue to do well.
“Treatment is to remove the fluid through diuretics and to make the patient more comfortable with oxygen. She will spend two to three days in hospital. There will be no effects to long term health and patients get back to full fitness in due course. Martina’s acute condition is not reflective of her health or fitness. It occurs in some people in conditions of low oxygen.”
From her bed at the Nairobi Hospital, Martina said: “I’m disappointed not to be able to complete this amazing journey. It was something that I have wanted to do for so long, but it was not to be. I am so pleased that we got it going and I will be watching and waiting for news from the climb when they reach the summit tomorrow (Sat). I didn’t make it, but I think it has been a great success as we have raised funds and awareness for the work that Laureus does.”
Among Martina’s team was British Olympic badminton star Gail Emms and German Laureus Friend & Ambassador, Paralympian Michael Teuber, who said: “The whole group of the climbers is very sad about Martina’s situation, but at the same time we are glad to hear that she is doing fine. Now we are even more motivated and want to reach the summit also for her. I will carry the Laureus flag up to the top and stick it in the ground for her.”
The climb began on Monday (Dec 6) and is due to reach the summit tomorrow (Saturday). The Laureus team have had to face unseasonal weather of blizzards and mists which has made progress extremely difficult over the last few days.
Martina Navratilova is a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a unique association of 46 of the greatest living sporting legends who volunteer their time to act as global ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation whose mission is to use sport as the means to combat some of the world’s toughest social challenges facing young people today such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, crime, social exclusion, landmines awareness, violence, discrimination and physical and mental health problems. Since its inception Laureus has raised over US$50 million and currently supports almost 80 sports-based projects around the world.
Before the climb Martina visited one such Laureus-supported project, the Mathare Youth Sports Association project in Nairobi – the kind of project which will benefit from funds raised from the Kilimanjaro Climb. Based in one of the largest and poorest slums in Nairobi in which HIV/AIDS and other diseases are widespread, the project has pioneered the use of football as a tool to encourage co-operation and raise self-esteem in the young people of the community.
Each year MYSA organises thousands of matches for around 20,000 young people, playing in over 1,000 leagues. Success is measured not just by the goals scored in matches, but by the work the young people do in cleaning up the slums. MYSA has been supported by Laureus since 2000. It has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its work.
Edwin Moses, Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, said: “We are all so relieved that Martina is fine and I want to pass on to her the best wishes from all her fellow Academy Members for a speedy recovery. I know how frustrated she will be that she wasn’t able to get to the summit, but I want her to know what a great job she did. Her idea to do this climb to raise awareness and funds and lend her name to the venture was typical of the woman and I congratulate her on that.”