A Most Remarkable Man (and his family story of overcoming HHT)
Definition of CAMP: to live temporarily in a camp or outdoors —often used with out
It can be a hobby, lifestyle, passion, escape, or a way to bring family together. You can enjoy it with just a bedroll and fire, a tent or a RV.
It really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference how you enjoy camping because you will always discover new adventures and people that otherwise might never come into your life.
I had never met Allan, though we had exchanged comments on our club forum. As far as I knew, he was just like anybody else that enjoyed camping.
I had just come back from a walk around the lake shore of our campground when our paths crossed. He was wearing hiking boots and had on a backpack. There were signs of perspiration around his temples. He had obviously been walking with the pack for some distance. But, a backpack at this particular campground was out of place. I mean, it was not as if we were next to the Appalachian Trail or something – it just didn’t make sense to have on a backpack here.
We began talking and I eventually found the opportunity to ask about the backpack. I was somewhat surprised when he told me that he had just finished a 7-mile hike with his pack and all of this was part of training for his forthcoming climb of Mount Kilimanjaro .
Whoa! Kilimanjaro is a doggone tall mountain. From what I could remember from my geography classes’ decades ago, it is in Africa and reaches about 19,000 feet in altitude. Climbing this mountain would be no small feat for someone 40 years younger than this guy. What was all of this about?
Allan was not the least bit hesitant to tell his story. I quickly became totally eclipsed in this man’s life and current ambition.
Allan was born with a genetic disease first known as Osler-Weber-Rendu disease. Today, it is commonly referred to as HHT, which is short for Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. The disease leads to abnormal blood vessel formation in the skin, mucous membranes, and often organs such as the lungs, liver, and brain. In Allan’s case, it had manifested itself as chronic and often profuse nosebleeds.
Normally, I would not think of a nosebleed as something of great concern. As an EMT I often encountered patients with nosebleeds – albeit often because of a fight, auto accident or sports injury. Some cotton and an ice pack often stopped the bleeding. But, nosebleeds for Allan were not the result of injury. They occurred almost daily without any warning and the loss of blood was so great that he would eventually need transfusions. It was these transfusions that caused the death of his grandfather and father, who also were afflicted with HHT, from infections in the donor blood.
In 2008, Alan was resigned to die from the disease. His overall health had deteriorated to the point that he could not even walk across a room without struggling to breathe. That is when Alan underwent treatment with a drug designed to treat colon cancer – Avastin. The results were totally amazing and an answer to his prayers. Just like a miracle, the nosebleeds that had plagued him all his life were gone. Alan began to regain his overall health and body strength. Then, in July of this year he started a diet to loose weight, worked with a personal trainer and in only five months had lost 30 pounds and could carry a 20 pound backpack 7 miles while walking at a fast pace.
On September 11th of this year, Allan and his son ran the “Patriot Run” (full marathon for Scott and half-marathon for Alan) in Kansas City. In spite of the 90-plus degree heat, each achieved his own goals for the day. They were personally commemorating their own good health, even though both father and son have HHT. As a father-son team they were proud to exemplify what can be accomplished with awareness, diagnosis, treatment and research efforts – all supported by the HHT Foundation.
This transition was absolutely remarkable! What this man has done and what he undoubtedly will accomplish in February of 2012 when he and his son set out to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro surpasses the expectations of most men nearing 70. And to think that only six months ago he had lost hope of beating the disease and was resigned to die.
Over the next few days, I met and talked with Allan again many times. After each conversation, I left with a growing respect for this man and his wife and family. Both he and his wife are truly examples of what love and determination can accomplish. Allan and Gwen met when they were 15 years old and were high school sweet hearts. They recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Everyone you meet has a story. Camping expands the opportunities for meeting new and interesting people – many which become an inspiration for your own life.
I will be reporting on how Allan’s climb to the top of Kilimanjaro works out in a few months. He is in our prayers.
For more of Allan, Gwen and Scott’s story and information about HHT click on the three links below to upload story files. You must have Adobe Reader installed to view the PDF file. Microsoft Word (or compatible program) is needed to view the last two story files. If you are asked for a log-in to view the files, first enter professor95 and then a password of woodalls.
Allan and Gwen’s Story – PDF file download.
Scott’s letter to family on testing – WORD file download.
Marathon Article – WORD file download.