TAMPA (FOX 13) - Tom Pepin is used to going to great heights to raise money for Florida Hospital Tampa Pepin Heart Institute, the cardiovascular hospital in Tampa that bears his family name. But, this time, he's attempting to climb a bigger mountain, literally.
"My four daughters and I are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to draw awareness to Pepin Heart Hospital and to the pledges we are asking for to help inspire us to get to the top."
Allie, Cassie, Bella and Christina will join dad on a 10-day journey, climbing 19,340 feet to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiking higher than this adventurous family has ever climbed before.
Their training has been “rigorous," he said -- hours on gym equipment, monitoring their heart rates, working out with weights.
"Another part of training is the altitude, because that's going to be a huge thing,” daughter Christina explained. “So we've been sleeping in altitude tents. Every night we sleep at 12,000 feet so when we get to that point it will be like sea level to us. I think what's going to get me through -- it is the altitude and the feeling is only temporary for us. So we're going to be losing oxygen and feeling not very good. At the same time, we'll have it in the back of our heads: For people who have heart disease, it's not temporary for them."
That's why the Pepin family is using this climb to raise money for Pepin Heart's ECMO program and new state-of-the-art equipment like an artificial lung.
"Its purpose is to help support critically ill patients who have severe lung shock and the ventilator will no longer get oxygen into their blood stream,” explained Dr. Julian Belisle, a cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon at Pepin Heart. “Without that support they'll most likely die."
"This is the latest and greatest in life-saving technology,” program director Dr. Nik Moradi offered.
Its cost? Over $100,000.
"We are going way out of our comfort zone and ask that you join us and pledge your support as we climb together to tackle this mountain of heart disease,” Pepin added.
To make a pledge or follow the Pepin Family on their journey go to: www.floridahospital.com/tampa/foundation/pepins-conquer-kilimanjaro
Or send your donation to: Pepin Family Foundation, 4121 N 50th St., Tampa FL 33610