Life is full of interruptions we’re rarely ready for, so the more doctors tried to convince Hans how serious his condition was, the more he denied it. Because, one minute you’re doing things like remodeling your apartment and riding your bike a hundred miles, and the next—the possibility of redoing your apartment and riding a bicycle is suddenly gone. We most commonly associate grief with death, but what about the softer versions of grief? Like, grieving the loss of a relationship or an old life, or maybe a kidney?

This episode is brought to you by Deuter, Gnarly Nutrition, Allez Outdoors, and Têra Kaia. Music by: “Southside” by Lee Rosevere, “Ichill” by Kakurenbo, “Blue Highway”, “60’s Quiz Show”, “Well and Good”, “Knock Knock”, “Pives and Flarinet”, “Good Times”, “Alphabet Soup” and “Memory Wind” by Podington Bear, “Singing in The Rain” by David Mumford, and “Christmas Tree” and “Warm Feelings” by Borrtex. Sound effects by: “Star Wars Rock” by yelba under License: Attribution 3.0, Daniel Simion, Yo Mama, and Mike_Koenig. A HUGE thank you to Chad Crouch, aka Podington Bear, for the support and to Peter Darmi for all of his help.

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Transcript:

(KATHY KARLO): This podcast is sponsored by Deuter, one of the leading backpack brands that will help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort, but most importantly–your snacks. Deuter has a history of first ascents and alpine roots. Their head of product development even climbed Everest once, in jeans (hashtag not fake news.) Deuter is known for fit, comfort, and ventilation. Founded in 1898, Deuter believes in good fitting backpacks, so you can focus on way cooler things like puppies, pocket bacon, and gettin’ sendy, whether at the crag or in the alpine.

– We’re working with Better Help to connect you to licensed therapists. They’ll match you with the perfect therapist for a fraction of the cost of traditional therapy. You know who goes to therapy? Prince Harry. Emma Stone. Jenny Slate. Kesha. Therapy is beautiful—everyone should go to therapy. Go to betterhelp.com/climbing to sign up and receive one free week. It helps support this show, and it helps support you.

– This podcast gets support from Gnarly Nutrition, one of the leading protein supplements that tastes “whey” better than they need to because they use quality natural ingredients. So, whether you’re a working mom who runs circles around your kids on weekends or an unprofessional climber trying to send that 5.13 in the gym, Gnarly Nutrition has all of your recovery needs. The only question you need to ask yourself is: Are you a sucker for anything that tastes like chocolate ice cream? (Yeah, me neither.) Gnarly Nutrition is designed to enhance your progress—and taste like a milkshake, without all the crap.

(FEMALE VOICE): Today we’re going to talk about “allez”. “Allez” means “come on!” in a way, or to encourage. Ok! We are done with the simple and normal uses of “allez”, now let’s cut to the chase:

(KK): Allez Outdoor Personal Care products are made by climbers for those who love the outdoors. Their rich and repairing ingredients for their skincare collection are inspired by desert landscapes, and their simple and recyclable packaging makes them eco-sustainable. Allez commits to protecting the open spaces that we love by partnering with the Access Fund and 1% for the Planet. You can win a year’s supply of Allez product by following them on Instagram (that’s Allez Outdoor: “A-L-L-E-Z”), posting a story about an upcoming or past adventure and tagging them. Allez will announce one winner per episode. Allez Outdoor—made by climbers, for those who love the outdoors.

Têra Kaia, made by women for women, is redefining the standard with sizing. The TOURA basewear top is their swim-friendly sports bra that’s designed for outdoor adventure—so you can hike, sweat, and climb to the summit in comfort. You can even wear it camping for days on end—it just about never gets gross (trust me, I have tried.)  You can take 10% off with code “fortheloveofclimbing” and show your support for the show. Go ahead and throw out your other sports bras because #basewear is the only top you’ll pack. Feel naked, go anywhere, look great.

(HANS PURWA): So, that happens a lot in dialysis.

(coughing in background)

We’ll talk about that.

(KK): Kevin Ran reached out to me in March of this year and he told me about his climbing buddy Hans, who also happened to be missing a kidney. A few weeks later, Hans and I met on the twelfth floor of the Lower Manhattan Dialysis Center.

(machine beeping)

I’d never actually been in a dialysis center before, so I was a little nervous when I first walked into the building. But it was important to me that I met Hans in person to do this recording, and I soon got to know the incredibly badass, positive person that was sitting in front of me with needles inside of him, slowly removing and transferring blood. These tubes are all hooked up to a machine called a dialysis machine. This machine is what keeps Hans alive as he waits for a kidney donor. At the time of this recording, Hans has been looking for a donor match for four years. Please note that there is discussion about child abuse and suicide in this episode.

– You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. This is not a climbing podcast. Well, sorta. This is a funny, sad, and somewhat uncomfortable podcast about choosing vulnerability and talking opening about our pain. This podcast is sponsored by Dirtbag Climbers. Here’s the show.

(HP): I was born in Indonesia and I had a pretty interesting family, actually. My father was actually a Jehovah’s witness—very strict, religious family. My mother actually decided to marry him, I think, based on a practical, economic solution. When I was back in Indonesia, of course, culturally it’s very different. I used to get beat a lot. My mother was never really there for me—I think she was really kinda outside of that.

(KK): When Hans was six-years-old, his parents got a divorce. His mom re-married and relocated. Hans is an only child.

(HP): There was a lot of manipulation, I can tell you that much. My mother hated my father. I think there was a lot of abuse there. But I think losing me changed him in some way. So, he came to visit me every week. It was like a four hour drive but he always came to visit—and that was my first time kind of knowing him differently than the other side of him, when I was young where he was very physically abusive. But there were moments when he would become kind. When I was about maybe seven-years-old, I was pretty much living on my own: go to school and then go home and just kind of be by myself. That was actually a pretty scary moment when you’re seven! I remember I would go to my parents room and just watch Star Wars all day. And it was the most incredible thing ever because it kind of just distracted me from the noise, you know, I think especially when you’re a kid who’s just waiting for your parents to come home at like ten p.m.

(KK): Hans’ father really did turn over a new leaf though. He was concerned about his son but too far away to do anything. So, he did what any parent in that situation would do: he hired a secret babysitter to keep his son company.

(HP): It’s crazy, it’s crazy! Just to keep me company. You know? And I was enjoying that! I was enjoying it, I had a friend, I was playing basketball with them. And then my mom found out. She was pissed. I remember she beat me so hard. My stepdad was so mad at me and I was just like, “I was just lonely.”

(KK): A few years later, Hans’ family planned a nice, normal family vacation. At least, that’s what he thought.

(HP): I still remember this day. I’d woken and I was like, “Wow that’s a lot of bags! What’s going on?” They’re like, “We’re just gonna go check out Singapore for like, a day or two.” You know, I like being in Singapore. It’s a pretty nice place. And I realize that sooner or later, “Man, this plane is taking a long time!” She told me, two hours before we landed, “We’re going to be in New York.” and I was just like, “What?” And we landed and a family friend of my stepdad took us in. And at the time, all I wanted was to tell my father but I just didn’t know how.

(airplane landing)

(KK): Ok, so please keep in mind that Hans—is still a kid. And up until this point, a lot of his life has not been normal. For example: secret babysitters and secret trips to New York. He was constantly being uprooted when all he wanted was what any of us want: stability and love. Instead, he got a one-way ticket to the U.S. and was plopped in the middle of New York City.

(HP): And that was terrifying—being a person who could barely speak English—being put in a position where I need to go to school now in a completely different culture. That was horrifying. And the scary part about it, I think, was just feeling like I can never fit in. Like, I would go home and I would just lock the door and I would just literally play games and just kind of keep myself distracted—living in a fantasy world pretending that I was somebody else. 

(KK): Even though Hans’ situation was less than ideal, it was still normal to him. At least, that’s what he kept telling himself. Every experience that he went through set the standard for what a normal life was supposed to look like—he didn’t really know any better. Parents get divorced all of the time, and families move—sometimes internationally. Right? So, when his mom and stepfather temporarily separated and his stepfather moved to California, Hans didn’t think it was weird. When Hans’ mom started dating somebody else, he didn’t think that was weird, either. What was weird about the new situation was that he had to live in a separate apartment from his mom. And again, tiny Hans thought that this was business as usual. Every so often, he would visit his mom who was living with her new boyfriend at the time. He would have to lie and say that he was her brother.

(HP): My mother had this apartment in Elmhurst, and I still remember exactly where this apartment is. So, she put me in this tiny room somewhere in the house. It was pay-by-cash, obviously. I was, again, living in a basement in this really tiny room and I was pretending to be eighteen-years-old, which is really crazy ‘cause I was twelve or thirteen here at the time.

(KK): So, you were probably pretty short.

(HP): (laughs) You know! And it was so insane because she was living with this guy—but the guy cannot find out that I was her son. And I just thought, “Ok. I guess this is really normal.” It was a closet, basically. The first day, I actually sat down and I just cried. And I was crying so hard to the point where I got so tired and finally just fell asleep. And I remembered a couple days later, I started going back to school. At the time, I was in Bayside. And I just thought that this was normal.

(KK): Sure, it’s normal—if your name is Harry Potter and you’re waiting your time out until your half-giant best friend comes along to reveal that you’re actually an orphan wizard. There is literally no other acceptable time when it’s ok to live in a closet. But that’s what Hans did in New York while his mom struggled with her relationship. It eventually ended, and that’s when she decided that it was time to leave the city.

(HP): And for the very first time, I thought, “Maybe this could be normal now. Maybe this can be finally a family.”

(KK): But that’s not exactly what happened next. Hans’ mom decided that California wasn’t for her, and she felt more at home living in New York City. She moved back to the east coast, but Hans stayed. For the first time in his life, he felt at home. He wasn’t living in a jungle of buildings and he really enjoyed the campus. There were still a lot of big adjustments to make, but Hans was ready to feel a sense of belonging somewhere.

(HP): The area that we were actually living in was actually very white. I mean, there’s obviously a Hispanic population—but it’s a very small Asian percentage. You’re going to have some sort of identity crisis because you don’t know who you latch onto and it’s very difficult for me to even understand what that means. At the time, I just want to blend in, so I was just like, “I’m just going to be as white as I can.” You know what I mean? That’s the only way for me to exist here. So, I start to forget my own culture. Oh, and then I got really, really suicidal. You know, and I just became really good at hiding it. And a lot of people were just surprised, like, “I didn’t even know that this was happening.”—because I just wanted to be normal for just a brief moment.

(KK): In a lot of ways, California did foster a sense of home for Hans. In other ways, it alienated him. At this point, Hans was in high school and sinking into a huge depression—not in a shop-at-Hot-Topic-“I’m just a kid”-by-Simple-Plan-emo kind of way—Hans became really suicidal. But counselors and social workers stepped in, and towards the end of high school, things started to look up.

(HP): And I finally told my counselor and my senior year went actually better because I was doing my therapy and they said, “Hans, the way for you to get out of this mess is for you to go to college.” And I did.

(KK): So, Hans went to college. And after everything—New York, his parents’ divorce, getting shuffled back and forth, and never feeling like he belonged anywhere—he finally felt free from all of it. Like, he could be a new person. Unfortunately, he was pretty terrible at college (his words, not mine) and his grades were so bad that he was put on probation. He even photoshopped his failing grades to hide them from his parents.

(HP): It’s funny, now I’m a retoucher. Maybe that was the call (laughs). And then I decided, “You know what? I’m gonna try community college in California. I’m gonna make myself better!” And I didn’t do well. I didn’t even go to class! But, at the time, my mother was like, “You need to go back to New York to get your act together. You’ve just been wasting money” and so on. “You need to start getting your act together.”

(KK): Hans took the opportunity and decided to give college one more try.

(HP): I said to myself, “I’m going to be a business major. I wanna make money!” And I went to the counselor and the counselor said, “Well, you gotta take humanities.” and I said to him, “What’s the easiest humanities?” He’s like, “Photography.” (laughs) Boy, let me tell you—when you are passionate about something, you are driven in a way that isn’t possible—you’re just on. And I was really serious about school all of a sudden and I wanted to be there. I was at school from eight in the morning till twelve at night, every day in the photo lab—just trying to master the skillset. And then I graduated and then went to FIT.

(KK): Hans had found his place! He figured it out—he found a passion and a purpose and he really liked what he was doing. He crushed college on his third try and towards the end of it, he was offered an internship and began working as a retoucher in the fast-paced fashion world of New York City. This was his happily ever after. Right? Things had finally come together and life was complete—sorta, mostly.

(HP): But, this is where the story gets interesting. I…met a girl. It was completely by accident. I was taking pictures of this building and she just poked me—her name is Gaby—and she poked me and was like, “What are you doing?” And there was this assignment called “Beauty” and at the time, I was just thinking, “Well, I really need to take a picture of beauty and I thought she was really beautiful and I was like, “Maybe I should ask her.” and she said yes—which is really surprising to me. So, I went to her place and shot her—and that’s how it started.

(KK): The first one is a big one.

(HP): It didn’t even occur to me. Because, to me, I thought a relationship would never happen for me. There’s always something wrong with me, people always are going to push me away—and this is the first time that I was like, “This is actually somebody who actually might potentially be interested in me.” And at the time, she was with somebody else, actually. And I just ended up for a whole year being friends with her and of course, everyone was like, “Are you sure there’s nothing going on here?” You know? And I was like, “No, no, no. It’s all business.” And then she took photo class for the very first time. This is where, I would say, the romance started to develop. If you take photo class, you will see me twenty-four, seven because I’m there all the time. And I wasn’t sure yet because I didn’t know what that felt like.

I think after a couple months after that, I went to her and said, “Hey, I like you. Would you like to be my girlfriend?” (laughs). And then, she was so confused—she didn’t know how to even respond. And she said no! And of course, I was like, “That’s too bad.” I was like, “Well, maybe it’s time for us to have some space. I don’t want it to be more awkward between us. And then, the week after that, she came to me and she was like, “I changed my mind.” (laughs) I was like, “What do you mean?”

“No one ever asked me that so directly, so I don’t know how to answer that. You know what I mean? Nobody just asked me like that.” I was like, “Well, how are you supposed to do this?” Like, “I don’t know—you go on a date first!” It was so embarrassing. I was like, “So, do you want to be my girlfriend?” and she was like, “Yes.” And that was my first experience of love and I couldn’t believe that that was possible for me. She was an amazing partner and we went through a lot together. We went through a lot of different adventures together, we grew together. That was an incredible experience.

(KK): It was the first time Hans had found real acceptance through another person, and he learned how to love someone through all of their flaws and cracks—and also, how to be loved back. And, like most relationships, when this one ran its course—Hans found love again.

(HP): She was focused on her teaching, I was focused on this new career and we just grew apart. We didn’t see each other as much, you know, and it started to feel like it’s no longer there. And there’s a lot of moments where I regret it. Maybe I should have done something. Maybe I should have tried harder. You know? But I thought, “I’m gonna be fine. I’m gonna be totally fine!” And then, I wasn’t fine. I pretended I don’t miss her, but that’s not true.

One of my friends who I haven’t seen in a long time told me, “Hey Hans, you should try climbing!” I was like, “Climbing? What’s that?” And I started climbing. Took me to Brooklyn Boulders and climbing was a distraction. I remember when it grabs onto you, you just don’t stop. I was just climbing so much. I was bouldering and then I was like, “I’m going to buy a bunch of gear now. I’m ready. Let’s go outside! Let’s do this.” And I went to the Powerlinez and did some trad climbing—that was terrifying. I was just climbing as much as I can and my body was changing—from basically photographing all the time to becoming like, “Wow. I’m actually getting fit! My fingers are getting strong. I can do pull-ups now?” I was like, “I can do pull-ups now on quarter-inch? That’s crazy!” Never in my life did I think I could do those things. And climbing became my life. I met a bunch of climbers, met so many friends. I felt so great to have that sense of community that accepts you. Nobody sees me differently—they just see me as a climber that just tries hard and I just felt like, “This is where I belong.”

(KK): Things are looking up for Hans. Like, they’re really, really starting to look up.

(HP): And then, let me tell you: a good feeling doesn’t last. There’s always something else that comes creeping behind you.

(KK): Hans was climbing stronger than ever before. Physically, as far as he could tell, he was in the best physical shape of his life. He’d just completed a Centurian bike ride from Babylon to Montauk—which is a distance of a hundred miles. So, when a doctor asked him about doing a physical checkup, he didn’t really think much of it.

(HP): I was like, “I haven’t done it in a long time, you know, because—look at me: hundred-mile biking—I’m a superhero! Come on, now.” He was like, “I think you should do a physical checkup.” I was like, “Alright.”

(KK): Hans had initially gone in for a routine checkup for his high blood pressure, but was convinced to stay and get a physical checkup as well. A few days later, he got a phone call and they told him:

(HP): “We can’t tell you on the phone. You need to come in.” I was like, “Oh, shit. What the fuck?” I went to the doctor and she looked at the number: “I think your kidney is failing—and it’s bad. And she’s like, “You need to be in dialysis now.” It was such a surreal moment for me. I was like, “What is going on?” Like, everything was amazing. I’m redoing everything in the apartment and all of a sudden there’s this huge, huge wave coming at me and I have no idea how to deal with it. The numbers basically suggested it’s late-stage five kidney disease, which is the last stage. Your kidney is only working seven percent. I just couldn’t believe it. Nobody could believe it, right? ‘Cause in my head, I was like, I went climbing all the time. How is that even possible? And I was like, “Maybe I just need to take medication. They’re just going to give me medication.” It wasn’t real for me yet—it wasn’t hitting me yet, because dialysis—what’s that?

And then I finally said to them, “Listen, in three weeks I’m going to Joshua Tree.” And she looked at me: “Are you insane? You can’t go to Joshua Tree! We gotta do surgery right now.” And I tried to convince her: “I think I can do it. I got this.” And she was just like, “I don’t know, Hans. The numbers are terrible. We can slow it down—barely. But you need dialysis now.”

(KK): Hans kept pushing. But the more doctors tried to convince him how serious his condition was, the more he pressed. Because, one minute you’re doing things like remodeling your apartment and riding your bike a hundred miles, and the next—the possibility of redoing your apartment and riding a bicycle is suddenly gone.

Experiencing grief is kinda like getting the crappiest gym membership that you never signed up for, but they keep charging you every month even though you’ve repeatedly asked them to please freeze your account. Nobody wants it, and yet we’re all going to experience it at some point. So, if you haven’t had to yet—don’t worry. It’s gonna happen because grief is a universal, human thing. It doesn’t really matter who we are or where we come from. There’s no “free pass”. We typically think of grief as being caused by someone’s death, but what about the softer versions of grief? Like, grieving the loss of a relationship or maybe a kidney? Nobody’s actually ready to be told that they have a life-altering illness. Nobody should be ready for that. Hans wasn’t. And what he was experiencing that day, and for a lot of days to come were some of the stages of grief. He denied, he tried bargaining with doctors:

(HP): “How ‘bout if I go to California just to tell my parents—” (because my parents live in California at the time) “—and I can just deal with it later?” And she was just like, “I can’t force you to do surgery but I do not recommend you doing this.” and I suddenly thought, “You know what, I’m going to start looking into this dialysis thing.” And when I looked into it, oh man, my heart just sank.

(KK): There are three main types of dialysis. I’m not gonna say them all, because they were kinda hard to pronounce if I’m being totally honest. Hans needed intermittent hemodialysis, or IHD, which means that your blood gets diverted into an external machine, filtered, and then returned to the body. That’s what you’ve been hearing in the background. The process itself doesn’t hurt, but sometimes painful muscle cramps can occur, and usually because of rapid changes in blood fluid levels. Two thin needles are inserted into something called an AV fistula. One of the needles is meant to remove the blood so that the machine’s membranes can filter waste products. This process is an artificial way of doing what a normal, healthy kidney does. Hemodialysis is usually done three times a week for three to four hours a day, depending on how well the kidneys work and how much fluid weight they’ve gained between treatment. Hans knew that “three times a week” meant no long-term climbing trips and no Joshua Tree.

(HP): No way. No fucking way. And I just cried in the bathroom by myself and I felt like, “Fuck this. I’m just gonna go to Joshua Tree. Let this be my last vacation to celebrate with my friends.” You know? Fuck this shit.

(KK): That would be anger. And—that was also it. Hans was going, he was going to Joshua Tree by hook or by crook. His doctor made one statement before he left:

(HP): “Promise me one thing: you are going to be very close to a hospital.”

(KK): And Hans went. He went to spend Christmas with his mom and stepdad. And it was your typical California holiday with lots of food, lots of lights, probably a lot of eggnog and a lot of seventy-degree weather—probably. But, even though the family was all together celebrating, there was one thing that was off—it was the guacamole.

(HP): Then my mother noticed something, like, “Hans, you’ve been so quiet. You know what you need? Chips and guacamole.” I love that. You know, I love eating that. But I couldn’t eat guacamole—because according to my diet, it would actually accelerate the kidney failure and she’s getting suspicious. And I finally told her and she started crying. I started crying. And she’s like, “You cannot go to this trip. We will not allow you.” And I said to my mother, I lie: “It’s literally just like a resort.” She’s like, “A resort?” Like, “Yeah, yeah. Listen, I just want to have some fun with my friends.” And I finally said, “I will call you every night, make sure everything is fine. I guarantee it.”

So, we got the RV. A couple of my friends start arriving and we went for a journey to Joshua Tree. I had a blast. I had an incredible time—to experience not just Joshua Tree, but we went across Death Valley—it was incredible. I really thought that trip was my last trip before I die. I was like, “I’m just going to go with a bang.” And then I realized that: I knew that going back to New York, I have to face reality. You have to make a choice.

(KK): Maybe it was being in one of the most beautiful places in the country. Maybe it was traveling with people Hans really cared about and being surrounded by their love and laughter. Maybe it was just being out west and sleeping underneath the stars—or maybe just because it was Christmas. But whatever it was, Hans knew what he was facing and he felt ready. When he got back to New York, his doctors said to him:

(HP): I am surprised you’re still here, but we are going to go through this together.

(KK): Hans had to have surgery before he could start dialysis. A special blood vessel is created in your arm by connecting artery to vein. This makes the blood vessel stronger and easier to transfer blood and back. It’s also the fastest way to clean your blood. The whole operation needs four to eight weeks to heal, which meant that Hans had to take medication to slow down the rate of kidney failure until the tissue surrounding the fistula was ready.

(HP): At the time, I was still climbing—which is so insane. I started to take all the medication, so the drugs were really affecting me. Like, I’m feeling dizzy. Things that were so easy like V3 felt like it was V10. My feet got bigger because there’s so much liquid not being pumped out. So I was just like, I think it’s over for me. My doctor told me that, “I don’t think you can climb anymore because your left arm cannot be used that way.” My friend was like, “Maybe you should try golfing, try to find another hobby.”

(KK): Hans isn’t a golfer, though. Which is totally fair. Golfing’s not his thing—climbing’s his thing. He was going to dialysis three times a week and was determined to get well, so he insisted on having the strongest treatment possible.

(HP): You know, I was in a depressive state but I was like, “Everything is gonna be fine.” And I sat down in this very chair and they put the port in me and, you know, I started doing dialysis and it becomes like a routine. In my head, I was like, “I totally got this.” So, the doctor’s like, “Alright, we’ll give you the strongest treatment.” And then I realized that I am just a mere mortal (laughs). I am not a superhero. When they take a lot of fluid out, it has a huge effect on your body. So, the side effect of fluid being taken out is muscle cramp, heart attack, passing out. It was literally the last fifteen minutes of the treatment and I was really holding on. I was like, “I got this.” I was literally considering this as a climb or during the moment when I was biking. I felt I wanted to give up. I was like, “Don’t give up, Hans.”

But I realized that you can’t treat it that way. It’s very different and it hit me so hard. It’s the cramp that you would never want to experience in your life. It starts to spread from your toes all the way down to your abs all the way down to your arm and into your neck. And that was my first time feeling such a pain that I would never want to experience ever again. I was screaming so hard, and everybody freaked out. It was like, ten people surrounding me trying to figure out what’s going on. It was so painful that they had to push all that saline back into my system and this pain, even though it only lasted for two to three minutes, it felt like forever.

(KK): Hans learned that his dialysis treatment wasn’t going to be like riding a hundred-mile race or pushing yourself in climbing. He couldn’t just champion his way through his treatments, and he learned this the hard way: muscle cramps and even passing out in a New York City subway.

(HP): It’s not like the movies where you just drop. Your heart rate just can’t keep up. It usually slows down and then all of a sudden, you just go down slowly and slowly and your vision starts blurring. And what happened one time is that I was trying so hard to breathe: “Come on, Hans.” and I would just go down slowly and slowly and slowly, and I finally realized there is a sound in the subway when you arrive in the station, “ding, dong!”

(subway ding dong)

(MALE VOICE): Stand clear of the closing doors, please.

(subway ding dong)

(HP): I didn’t even care how dirty it was, I just literally went in the fetal position in the station and nobody said anything.

(KK): I mean, it is New York.

(HP): And I was just sweating cold and I woke up, called my boss: “I’m going to be late to work.” But I realized that I’m just a human being and I’m going to make mistakes. I was so afraid of disappointing people. You know, I was like a star student and I was just trying so hard—maybe this could be my community now, and I could feel accepted here.

(KK): I feel like we’ve all been on this huge rollercoaster ride with Hans for half an hour, just listening to all of the ups and the downs. And it’s like—when is Hans gonna catch a break? Life kicks you in the throat, and then you get back up. And then life says, “Wait, I have something for you!” and it’s just another shit pie. And this interview was so long that we didn’t even have time to tell you about the time Hans lost his insurance and Medicaid wouldn’t pay his bills, or that he was diagnosed with Lymes disease and had to get an emergency spinal tap. Yeah—shit pie. But, just hold on a little bit longer, Hans, because we’re all rooting for you.

(HP): This is actually where I kinda met you. This was maybe like five years ago where my friends said, “Hans, why don’t you go to the Cliffs and hang out with us?” And I just said, “I don’t want to be reminded of something that I cannot do anymore.” And my friends were like, “Come on, dude. We’re just going to hang out, chill.” So, I went to the Cliffs and saw a bunch of people that I recognized. They were like, “Dude, Hans—you alright? How’s everything?” You know how it is. Like, they try to be nice. And then all of sudden, my friend’s like, “You know, why don’t you climb?” I was like, “What do you mean?”—“I don’t know, do some 5.6 or something. You know, like toprope. I got you.” I was like, “I don’t know that I should be doing climbing. You know, this is kind of dangerous.” I mean, it’s 5.6—maybe I could be the baddest 5.6 climber out there and I start doing it and he was like, “Hey, Hans! Guess what? Your footwork is still there—” (laughs) “—you still got this.” You know? I was like, “Alright.” And I said to myself, “Maybe it’s possible. Maybe I can climb again.”

And then climbing suddenly wasn’t enough. No matter how much I try to climb, I was just running away for a long, long time. My feelings of being abandoned, my feelings of feeling rejected, feeling of not being a part of community—it always haunts me, regardless. And every day, I’m just trying to figure out what is next for me. When you’re in dialysis, you have to get a transplant as quickly as you can because each day you are in dialysis, your body is dying. What motivates me is the people that I care about, the people that I love. But sometimes, it’s hard. That cloud is sometimes winning. I start questioning even my own friends. But every day I feel like you have to trust them. They care about you. But it’s hard sometimes because it reminds me constantly of being abandoned and feeling like there is something wrong with me. The first thing a child learns is trust, and I never felt that sense of trust and that flood of emotions—I was not ready to deal with. And I just started to understand, how do I stop running away? So then, I told my mother, “I think it’s time for us to talk.”

And everyone was like, “Oh my god—they’re just crying their balls out! I don’t know what is happening!” And I was really just saying to my mom, “It’s ok. I understand. And I am trying to learn to forgive you—but most importantly, the hardest part for me was forgiving myself.”

(phone rings)

(KK): Hey, how are you!

(HP): I am good! How are you?

(KK): I’m doing ok. I’m in Denver right now and oh my god, life is just so crazy! But summer was really good—so I’m just kinda getting my life back. I don’t know, I’m just moving forward—

(HP): That’s good!

(KK): —and I’m glad to do it with you. So, yeah.

(HP): Oh, my god. I think you’re doing amazing, you know? I think you’re exactly where you need to be, that’s what I’m trying to say. You know?

(KK): Yeah. Thank you.

(HP): Absolutely! Oh my god, I’m so excited for you! All the things that you’re doing—I think it’s incredible.

(KK): Oh my god! What about napping? Is napping incredible? I’m gonna go take an incredible nap.

(HP): (laughs)

(KK): Hans, I’ve been editing your episode for the last couple of days and I’m almost finished with it, actually.

(HP): Oh, wow.

(KK): So, obviously you’ve been on my mind and in my ears and I’ve been thinking about you. And I just, well, I wanted to ask you:

(HP): Yeah.

(KK): How does it feel to have found a donor now, after waiting for so long? What was that like?

(HP): When I got the phone call, she said, “We got a kidney for you. Do you want it?” And I was like, “Oh my god, yes!” “How far are you from the hospital?” I’m like, “Twenty-five minutes away.” And she was like, “Ok. Let’s rock and roll.” It was such an emotional experience for me—I was crying in the cab. A part of me is so thankful that I can finally have the freedom that I wanted.

(KK): I’m just so proud of you. And I’m so happy.

(HP): Thank you, oh my god. Thank you, yeah.

(KK): It‘s gotta feel like this huge weight has been lifted off of you.

(HP): Oh, absolutely. The time. Oh, the time that has been given to me! You know, the incredible part of it is, I can feel her presence and hopefully, you know, I don’t waste it. That’s what I’m trying to say here, you know.

(KK): Hans, that’s beautiful. I think—I think you’re doing this kidney justice.

(HP): I feel like I have a second chance and feel like the time that I have, I can finally use it.

(KK): You get your life back, and when you’re ready—we should go climbing.

(HP): Absolutely! Oh my god, I was like, “I want Kathy to belay me.”

(KK): (laughs) Well, that’s funny ‘cause I was thinking, “I want Hans to belay me!” What do you think, you think we can get Kevin on a rope?

(HP): Oh, let’s do it! You know what? He’s gonna do it, he’s gonna do it. For sure.

(KK): You hear that, Kevin? You’re gonna do it.

(HP): It’s mandatory now.

(KK): Yeah, I can’t wait. It’ll be so good to see you.

(HP): I said to myself, “If I get a kidney, the first thing I wanna do is get a dog.” (laughs)

(KK): Did you get a dog?!

(HP): I did get a dog, yes! It’s a golden retriever.

(KK): What is your dog’s name?

(HP): Ok, ok. It’s kind of silly but I call her “Solo”.

(KK): Like for “free solo” or for “Han Solo”?

(HP): For “Hans Solo”! (laughs)

(KK): Oh my god!

(HP): So, therefore when people call me “Hans Solo”, it’s referring to both of us.

(KK): Hans Solo. I love it.

– According to the CDC, fifteen percent of U.S. adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease, which is about 37 million people. Organizations like the National Kidney Foundation and the Dialysis Patient Citizens can educate and empower those interested in learning about kidney disease. Visit fortheloveofclimbing.com for more resources available.

– If you experience suicidal thoughts and don’t know who to talk to, call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. That’s 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.

– And please contact The National Child Abuse Hotline for crisis intervention, information, and referrals. The National Child Abuse Hotline serves the U.S. and Canada twenty-four seven and professional crisis counselors can provide assistance in over a hundred and seventy languages. That’s 1-800-422-4453. All calls are confidential.

– Even though I still have no idea what I’m doing—things are happening. And if you’d like to help out and support this podcast, please check out patreon.com (that’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N) where you can sponsor us for as little as $1 per episode. It really helps keep this podcast going, and I’m so grateful for all of your help. Special shout out to Cameron MacAlpine because he makes this thing sound good.

– You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. A huge thank you to Deuter, one of the leading backpack brands that will help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort. And a big thank you to Gnarly Nutrition for supporting this podcast and the messages that we share. Gnarly Nutrition supports a community of vulnerability and equality—and tastes like a milkshake, without all the crap. A big shout out to Allez Outdoor for supporting the Access Fund and 1% for the Planet. Allez Outdoor Personal Care products are made by climbers for those who love the outdoors. And thanks to Têra Kaia. Go ahead and throw out your other sports bras because #basewear is the only top you’ll pack. Feel naked, go anywhere, look great.

Support companies who support this podcast—we couldn’t do it without them. If you liked what you heard, you can leave a review on iTunes or give us a like—like all good things, you can find us on the internet. Until next time.


Additional resources to find support for you or loved ones:

National Kidney Foundation (NKF)

American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP)

Renal Support Network

Kidney & Urology Foundation of America (KUFA)

Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC)

National Suicide Prevention

Childhelp National Child Abuse

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