Reaching the Summit - Climber Dedicates Climbs to Fight Against Alzheimer's
Two down, five to go.
Alan Arnette, an alpine mountaineer and advocate in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, is climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents in an effort entitled, “The 7 Summit Climb for Alzheimer’s: Memories are Everything.” His effort is designed to raise $1 million for Cure Alzheimer’s Fund and the National Family Caregivers Association, as well as awareness of the burdens – both financial and personal – that this disease places on those who are afflicted, their caregivers and society.
Needless to say, Alan’s own life was touched by Alzheimer’s; his mother, Ida, had the disease. “We started noticing my mother's memories had slipped years ago,” Alan recounted on his website. During the 2003 Christmas holiday, we went to a hotel for their famous brunch. As usual, we all got up to visit the buffet and indulge until we could no more. I noticed my Mom walking around aimlessly. As I went over to her, she seemed startled at my approach. ‘What do you want to eat?’ I asked her gently. ‘Oh, you know; the usual,’ was her noncommittal answer. In spite of this warning sign, she and my dad continued their independent life for several more years, refusing to give up their independence in spite of our begging. As her memory grew worse, she mastered the technique of the elusive ‘throw-away’ answer. My dad supported her deception either by design or by necessity. Sitting across the table from her during breakfast, we chatted intently about Dad being in the hospital. I had to keep reminding her that he was not well and it was serious. In the midst of this serious talk, she looked at me with clarity in her eyes and simply asked, ‘Now, who are you again?’ In 2009 my mom continued to decline. She had trouble feeding herself and doing other daily activities. She no longer recognized or remembered anyone, and she had significant trouble forming words or creating sentences. Her mind continued to be devastated by this disease. Not only was her memory gone but almost all of her identity. That said, I could still get her to laugh a little with a small joke and even over the phone, I could feel her smile. So she was always in there somewhere. On August 16, 2009, she passed away.”
Alan took early retirement in 2007 after spending 30 years working with Hewlett-Packard. He decided to combine his love of climbing with his Alzheimer’s advocacy. “As a result seeing the impact of Alzheimer's on my mother, it became clear that I had to do something,” he said. “So after taking early retirement, I have dedicated my life to raising money for Alzheimer's disease through my climbing. My dream is that researchers can find a way to stop or a cure for this killer of lives and robber of precious lifetime memories.”
Alan already has summited the 16,067-foot Mount Vinson in Antarctica in November and the 22,841-foot Mount Aconcagua in Argentina on January 29. He is planning to climb Mount Everest in Nepal (29,035 feet) in April/May, followed by Mount Denali in Alaska (20,320 feet) in July. He’ll head to Russia to climb Mount Elbrus (18,481 feet) in August, followed by 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in September. In November, he’ll climb the 16,023-foot Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea. His final climb on this effort is the 7,310-foot Mt. Kosciusko in Australia.
My best wishes and thanks go to Alan for his efforts to raise needed funds and awareness to battle this disease across the world.