A North San Antonio man is climbing the world’s tallest mountains as part of his effort to raise awareness of a rare bleeding disorder that affects him.
Jeff Salantai was born with the rare bleeding disorder Hemophilia A, which doctors said prevents blood from clotting properly and increases the risk of bleeding longer and more severely.
Yet, Salantai said he is living life to the fullest and using one of his hobbies—climbing—to help others learn more about Hemophilia A.
Having hiked the Grand Canyon and Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, Salantai most recently climbed Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, in April to mark World Hemophilia Day, which was April 17.
Salantai said he was diagnosed with Hemophilia A several weeks after birth when he was circumcised and would not stop bleeding. At the time, he and his family lived in Illinois and were advised by a nurse to see a hematologist in the St. Louis, Missouri, area.
Salantai said coping with his bleeding disorder at an early age was tough.
“We were in the hospital almost every week until my parents were taught how to infuse my treatment at home. I had frequent bleeds and spent many days in bed or on crutches,” Salantai said.
Salantai said he was very young when he developed an interest in contact sports and outdoor activities, which can be challenging for hemophiliacs because of joint and muscle bleeds.
“I ended up having recurrent bleeding in my right ankle, which caused mobility issues. I had to sit out of all the games and playtime kids have,” he said.
But Salantai said his parents were determined to ensure he had a chance to live a relatively independent life, so they sought out treatment options to help manage his disorder.
Throughout his life, Salantai has embraced his hobbies, namely climbing and competing in 100-mile bike races, while managing his disorder through IV injections several times a week.
“Medications have improved, and I've had better control over my bleed rate. Exercise and weight lifting helped strengthen my joints and keep me more mobile,” he said.
Salantai started using a treatment called Hemlibra a few years ago.
“This has been a game changer for me, especially since I had to previously administer infusions a few times a week,” he said.
Salantai combines his passion for climbing with advocacy work with the Massachusetts-based nonprofit, Save One Life, which supports individuals with bleeding disorders, especially patients in developing countries.
The idea for scaling Mount Everest arose in 2022 when Salantai took part in a Grand Canyon climb with Save One Life Executive Director Chris Bombardier, who said he wanted to return to Everest in the organization’s next fundraiser.
“This was something that had been on my bucket list for years, and I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity,” Salantai said.
The Everest trip included Salantai and fellow climbers working with the Hemophilia Society of Nepal, meeting local patients and hematologists, and visiting hospitals and sponsors’ homes.
Salantai said the climb itself, which included him summiting another peak, Kala Patar at 18,500 feet, featured long hours of trekking, sore feet, cold, snow and exhaustion.
But Salantai said he suffered no bleeds during the Everest trip, and that it was one of his greatest personal experiences.
“The feeling of having made it to base camp with little to no issues is hard to describe. I checked off an adventure that most people don't do in their lifetime, especially those with a bleeding disorder, so I feel very accomplished,” he added.
Salantai said coping with hemophilia has taught him to never give up on anything.
“I feel as if I can do anything anyone else can do as long as I take some precautions,” he added.