Will Cross: First American with Diabetes to Reach Foot Summit of Mt. Everest

Mary Kate Cary Health Guide
  • This week, Will Cross, a 39- year old father of six from Pittsburgh, became the first American with diabetes to reach the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest. And get this: he’s now the first American – and the first person in the entire world with diabetes – to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents and walk to the North and South Poles, called the NovoLog Peaks and Poles Challenge. (Will Cross uses Novolog insulin in a flexpen.)

    "I really had a grin from ear to ear -- climbing the Hillary Step. Literally looking down on the world from 29,035 feet is the most unique feeling," Will Cross told Channel 4 News in Pittsburgh.
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    "There has been no other patient with diabetes -- let alone on insulin -- that has climbed Mount Everest," endocrinologist Dr. Patricia Bononi, of West Penn Hospital, said. "He had to figure out how to store his insulin and keep it from freezing. He had to determine how to treat himself because he was exerting himself so physically. He couldn't check his blood sugars because of the high altitudes, because of the cold temperatures. None of the current meters would work at those kind of extreme conditions," Dr. Bononi said.

    "I learned a lot when he was climbing. None of this is in the medical research. There's very limited data. So, he was climbing lots of frontiers -- not only physical frontiers, but medical ones as well," Dr. Bononi added.

    During the expedition, Cross overcame record-breaking winds, sub-zero temperatures and an April icefall avalanche. In 2004 and 2005, he was forced to turn back during his attempts on the summit, due to weather and a shortage of oxygen. A former high school principal, he’s planning on speaking at diabetes events across the country through the remainder of the year. I’m definitely taking my daughter when he visits in our area.

    For some great shots of Will Cross and his various expeditions – including a photo of him getting a shot of insulin in his tent – see the sponsors’ Web site at http://peaksandpoles.com.

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Published On: May 30, 2006