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Climbing for a cure
Caleb Thorsteinson, of Spanaway, spent his first birthday in the hospital.
Thorsteinson, now almost 2 years old, continues to battle leukemia.
Silverdale resident Kyle Baumgartner will support the boy's battle by climbing Seattle's tallest building Sunday, March 22.
Thorsteinson's uncle, Josh Isley, was Baumgartner's good friend. Isley was killed in a car accident Feb. 15, 2002.
Baumgartner, 28, and Isley attended Olympic High School together and were very good friends.
Baumgartner keeps in touch with Isley's family and when he heard Thorsteinson was battling leukemia, he knew he had to do his part.
"It's what Josh would have wanted," Baumgartner said. "He would have been a great uncle."
Baumgartner participated in last year's Big Climb, raising $3,500 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He climbed the 69 stories of the Columbia Center in Seattle in 28 minutes.
"It was beyond challenging," Baumgartner said of last year's event. "I just kind of put my head down and did it."
What makes Baumgartner's sprint-climb up the 1,311 stairs even more impressive is that several years ago he had to relearn how to walk.
On Oct. 22, 2005, Baumgartner was in Ellensburg to play an alumni baseball game at Central Washington University. He and his friends went to a bar one night where a man picked a fight with one of his friends. Baumgartner stepped in between the two men and he was shoved to the ground, slamming his head against the cement.
Baumgartner had an acute subdural hematoma, a collection of blood between the outer layer and middle layer of the covering of the brain. He was in a coma for 10 days and doctors weren't sure whether or not he'd survive.
After many physical therapy sessions and other devices, Baumgartner was outfitted with a Bioness NESS L300, an advanced foot-drop system that uses mild stimulation to lift the foot. He still uses this device today, but has turned down the stimulation.
"I'm basically operating on one good leg and one bad leg," Baumgartner said.
Baumgartner said he was "shocked" he finished last year's Big Climb, but Isley gave him the inspiration he needed to climb to the top.
"I did think about Josh a lot and I did feel like he was giving me strength to go all the way," he said. "The spirit of Josh was with me to make me make it."
Baumgartner said he is nervous about this year's Big Climb because he hasn't been hitting the gym as often as he'd like.
"Last year I was working out pretty heavily. I was in a lot better shape," he said. "I've just been so busy with work that I haven't had time to work out."
Baumgartner said he'd like to raise $5,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society before next weekend's Big Climb.
"Pretty much there's nothing I can do about him (Caleb) having leukemia and this is the most I can do for him," Baumgartner said. "If Caleb hadn't come down with leukemia, I don't know we would even know about the event."
Baumgartner visited the Spanaway cemetery where Isley is buried on Feb. 15, the seventh anniversary of his death, where he saw Thorsteinson and the rest of Isley's family. He said the boy is doing great while undergoing treatment.
"He's doing remarkably well. He's a tough little sucker," Baumgartner said.
Baumgartner said he plans to do the Big Climb every year not only to test his own physical progress, but to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"And even after Caleb is cured of leukemia I still plan on doing it," he said. "I realize how devastating this disease can be for a family."
To donate money to Baumgartner's Big Climb campaign, visit www.bigclimb.org, click on "Donate," and search for Kyle Baumgartner. People also may mail donations to Golf Savings Bank, Attention: Kyle Baumgartner, 11871 Silverdale Way NW, Suite 111, Silverdale, WA 98383.