Delta Middle School principal Adam Truitt has reached great heights in his personal and professional life, but is setting his sights even higher with a three-week trek to the south base camp of Mt. Everest, altitude 17,598 feet.
Truitt is making the trip with his dad, Alan Truitt, and nine others who have Parkinson's disease.
Alan Truitt is involved in an experimental project that uses patient skin cells to make the dopaminergic neurons that are lost in Parkinson's disease. Two San Diego doctors are masterminds of this breakthrough research — Dr. Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, and Dr. Melissa Houser, neurologist and director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Scripps Clinic.
The project has global implications for people with all types of degenerative diseases, from Parkinson's to multiple sclerosis to ALS.
While Truitt is excited about the opportunity to spend priceless time with his father, and the opportunity to go to a place he's always dreamed of, the focus is on what he calls some "pretty amazing science." The goal of the trek is to bring funding and awareness to cutting-edge research that may lead to a viable long-term treatment for Parkinson's.
"We've got an opportunity here to find solutions that can make people's lives all over the globe better," Adam said.
Alan Truitt has always been an avid climber, and he shared his passion for the outdoors with his family. He and Adam formed a close bond while climbing, skiing and playing outdoors. Together they've climbed Mt. Rainier and summited several 14ers.
"My dad has always been an influential person in my life," Adam said. "He's always taught me to put one foot in front of another, that with focus, determination and diligence you can accomplish anything.
"Mt. Everest will certainly be the pinnacle not only for father and son, but for science. This is an amazing opportunity for us to identify how we can solve the mysteries of the brain."
In 2011, Alan Truitt and other members of this group climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro — at 19,341', the highest mountain in Africa — to raise money for the same Parkinson's research. They raised $350,000 as a result of the climb.
The trek to Mt. Everest was organized by Sherrie Gould, nurse practitioner at Scripps Clinic Movement Disorders Center and spokesperson for Summit4StemCell.
Most of the climbers are from the San Diego area so Adam already has a headstart with altitude training. During the summer, he and his family did a lot of "playing" at higher elevations. Since school started, Adam has made it a point to get up early and work out. Whenever possible, he's hiked seven to 10 miles carrying between 15 and 20 pounds in his backpack so he'll be ready to hike three to six hours a day carrying his extra clothing, water and snacks.
In California, his dad wound up his training regimen with a hike through the Sierra Nevadas. He hasn't let Parkinson's slow him down, Adam said, because he knows staying active and being physically fit helps keep the brain going.
This week the group will fly to Kathmandu, then take a small plane to Lukla, which is located at 9,383 feet. The logistics are being handled by Alpine Ascents and guide Vern Tejas, a world renowned climber. The group will stay at Sherpa tea houses along the route to base camp, a sprawling international tent city where climbers begin final preparations for their ascent of Mt. Everest.
There are an estimated 1.5 million Americans living with Parkinson's and approximately 50,000 new cases diagnosed every year, but the climbers are already seeing beyond the mountain as they train. "We know the climb is a courageous act," but we want to inspire all who face seemingly insurmountable odds to rise above them and escape the limitations we all set for ourselves. It's time to not only meet this mountain, but to move it!" said Gould.
Hikers pay their own expenses but are seeking donations, large and small, at www.summit4stemcell.org. One hundred percent of the money raised will be used for this cutting-edge research as a long-term treatment for Parkinson's disease.
The group's progress can be tracked through the Alpine Ascents website.blog comments powered by Disqus