TORONTO — When Zak Goldman joined a team that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania last month in support of Mount Sinai Hospital, he witnessed first hand the doctors’ lifesaving skills.
As the team of 14 climbers, including two emergency room physicians – doctors Howard Ovens and Bjug Borgundvvaag – were making their ascent, they found a six-year-old boy wandering alone and lost.
Goldman, 36, an insurance and estate planner, said the boy actually found them, about 20 minutes away from the climbers’ campsite.
“I’m not a crier, but when I saw that young boy, my breath was literally taken away. He had been out there for two nights and was wearing flip flops, tattered pants and a shirt and sweatshirt. [In comparison,] I was wearing fleece pants and a heavy jacket,” Goldman said.
“He was holding a miniature rounded knife, because he was sent by his family, who lived at the base of the mountain, to gather grass so they could feed the cows. Somehow, he made it up 13,000 feet. This little boy really gave me a new appreciation for poverty.”
The doctors examined the boy for signs of frostbite and starvation, wrapped him in sleeping bags and gave him some hot tea. Then park rangers took him down. “I don’t know what would have happened to him if he would have had to spend another night out there.”
Goldman, who spent his birthday on the mountain, said that the whole trip was an emotional one for him.
“My wife gave birth to twins at Mount Sinai in 2009. One died, and the other was cared for at the hospital. It has a very special place in my heart. When I was approached to join the team [headed by businessman and Mount Sinai Foundation board member David Cynamon], I couldn’t refuse. I made the climb in honour of my three-year-old, Blake, and in memory his twin, Avery.”
The climbers raised more than $1.3 million for the hospital, and each decided where they wanted their money to go, said Goldman, including the Avery Goldman Special Fund for the neonatal intensive care unit, the thyroid cancer initiative, cancer research, the Schwartz-Reisman Emergency Centre, women’s and infants health, the neonatal intensive care unit, and diabetes research.
“This climb was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, but it was a real commitment. We left our families and our jobs, and it wasn’t easy. We slept in tents and shlepped our bags. It was for a great reason, though. The hospital does wonderful things. Look what it did for my son.”
He said that he has raised $370,000 for the Avery Goldman fund, including $87,000 from the climb. “I would do it again in a second. What we did [for the hospital] was amazing, and find that little boy was something else altogether.”
They went up as a team, and came down as a team, Goldman said. “These were guys I didn’t know 14 days earlier, but we all had the same goal. We all wanted to help Mount Sinai.”