Mother climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise congenital heart disease awareness

An Austin mother is fulfilling a lifelong dream by climbing the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, and she's also helping to raise awareness about congenital heart disease.

Dr. Saima Jehangir says she's climbing in honor of her son, Daniel, and the other 40,000 babies born with a heart defect each year. She credits her ultrasound technician for finding Daniel's condition.

Dr. Jehangir says she hopes her climb will bring not just awareness but access to the same level of care that she had. The kind that allows Daniel to be the thriving boy he is today.

Daniel Antonini is pretty much your average nine-year-old now but Dr. Jehangir says his birth was anything but average. 

"Daniel was diagnosed with this heart defect at 20 weeks of age in my belly and so I already knew months before he was born that he was going to need the surgery," Dr. Jehangir says.

The condition didn't allow Daniel's blood to oxygenate and without surgery it can be fatal.

Dr. Jehangir is a gynecologist with her own practice in Austin and she says her medical background made everything worse when she found out about her unborn child's condition.

"I didn't know if my child would grow up to live a normal life. To be able to do swim team to plays sports, to go to a normal school. Would he ever be a teenager?" Dr. Jehangir says. "I would look at teenagers at the heart clinic and I would wonder, is my kid ever going to make it? So I knew it was a very difficult time."

Daniel was born on May, 9, 2009 and the following two months were the most challenging months of Dr. Jehangir's life.

"(The) surgery was complicated. After seven hours of surgery, they realized that the surgery they performed wasn't going to work, which means they undid the surgery and then they redid the surgery," Dr. Jehangir says.

Ever since she found out about the defect, Dr. Jehangir says she wanted to do something to help others who are dealing with what she had to deal with. 

"I realized how many people how there didn't have the same access and ability I did and my mission was to provide that access and ability to anybody else who had the same experience that my family had with Daniel being diagnosed with heart disease," Dr. Jehangir says.

Dr. Jehangir says she decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro because the air is thin at the peak and she imagines it will feel similar to what Daniel experienced before his heart was fixed. 

Daniel says he's happy his mom is going to get to fulfill her dream and that he feel lucky to have had his defect fixed and he's able to live life like a normal kid.

Dr. Jehangir is climbing to help raise money for Tiny Hearts Project. It's a nonprofit training sonographers to detect diseases early so they can hopefully save more babies like Daniel.

You can get more information here.