1 Mountain, 2 Sisters, and a Future for More Babies
On Thanksgiving Day, while most of us were kicking off the holiday season by filling our plates with turkey and stuffing or making plans to get a head start on our shopping, two inspirational sisters were making history and changing lives.
Natalia Luis and Cidalia Luis-Akbar are sisters, leading businesswomen, and dedicated moms, driven by one goal.
And that goal?
To help babies around the world thrive by raising awareness about the importance of earlier, more accurate diagnostics during high-risk pregnancies and setting a new gold standard of care that gives the most fragile newborns the best chance to survive as adults.
The sisters knew that raising awareness and much-needed funds for the Fetal Medicine Institute at Children’s National Health System of the Washington area would be an uphill climb, so they decided to turn that goal into a literal one–
And scale a mountain.
With unstoppable determination, these two women set out to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. And on Thanksgiving Day, after a seven-day climb, they accomplished their goal, reaching the top of the incredible 19,341-foot African peak. As you can see in the picture, the exhausted, but elated, pair proudly raised the Children's National Health System's “Doctor Bear” flag to symbolize the hope they have for kids globally.
Kinda makes you feel guilty for sitting around all day eating turkey, doesn't it?
As board members with the Children's National System, both Natalia and Cidalia have a passion for advocating for the health of high-risk newborns. And for Cidalia, the cause is one that is always close to her heart.
“This is a very personal issue for me, because in 2002, I lost my first son, Joseph, who was diagnosed in utero as being sick,” she explained. “Unfortunately, he didn't make it. I went on to lose six other children, and I also battled cancer. I was so blessed in 2009, when I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy girl named Sophia, who's turning 5 this month. I want more parents to have the opportunity to have healthy children.”
Watching the struggles that her sister has faced, Natalia is determined to do all she can so no other parents will face those tough moments of sorrow and heartache.
“Our decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro symbolizes our desire to take fetal medicine to new heights,” she said. “By climbing this mountain, we will be bringing closure to the ‘personal mountain' we've had to climb and the adversity we have faced. For others who have struggled and continue to face challenges, we hope to bring them up the mountain with us.”
In the end, the sisters believe that the work of the Fetal Medicine Institute will benefit children across the nation–and worldwide.
“The diagnostic methods and interventions can be shared globally to help all children, and that’s one reason we are so supportive,” Cidalia explains.
“We think the Fetal Medicine Institute at Children's National Health System represents the future for fetal medicine.” And the future, according to the sisters, lies in diagnosing babies earlier and more accurately during high-risk pregnancies and setting a new standard of care for newborns.
While Cidalia and Natalia have successfully achieved their goal of scaling the mountain, they still need support to reach their fundraising goal for the Fetal Medicine Institute. At the time of this writing, the sisters were halfway toward their goal of $500,000. You can learn more and make a secure, online donation here.
Did you have a high-risk pregnancy?