At the Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Conference last week in Arlington, VA, I had the privilege to meet 25 year old Todd Peck, a race car driver who has battled JA for the past 10 years. Joining forces with the Arthritis Foundation, Todd Peck’s No. 96 Chevrolet truck will carry the “Kids Get Arthritis Too” decal in the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to bring awareness to Juvenile Arthritis.
A cool surprise at the conference, all the children in attendance (an estimated 1000 kids) had a chance to sign Todd’s truck which will be racing at the Iowa Speedway this Saturday. Watch at 7PM EST to get a glimpse of the hundreds of signatures which cover the truck from headlamps to truck bed and to watch a young man who continues to follow his dream.
With the help of the Arthritis Foundation, Todd Peck and his team will host kids who suffer from juvenile arthritis and their families during the 2011 race season. One of the treats which the families will enjoy is one thing Todd’s father, race spotter, and team owner, Dr. Michael Peck, provided to me last week….a personal tour of the massive truck hauler, the team’s shop on wheels. Very cool to see firsthand.
Mike Peck openly spoke with me about Todd’s arthritis and their close bond as racer and spotter, and father and son. I had no idea just how important the role of the spotter is on the racetrack. The spotter is the one who communicates with the driver about when to make a move or when to pull back on the track. The spotter is literally the driver’s eyes and ears. Both father and son mentioned that much can be communicated in the space between words. I was intrigued at the high level of trust required.
Dr. Peck also shared that the family’s experience in the medical field - Todd’s mother is also a doctor - may have initially delayed Todd’s arthritis diagnosis. Mike admits that he remembers telling his teenage son to “suck it up” in response to self-reports of pain, fatigue, or discomfort. Even after all these years, Mike looked regretful that it took until Todd couldn’t put on his shoes due to severe swelling before he thought that maybe something was seriously wrong.
Todd Peck tells a slightly different story. When I asked him how bad it got before he (and his parents) thought that something really was wrong, he says that it was when he couldn’t get out of bed and dress himself due to the intense pain causing him to cry. Even with the delay, it took less than one year for Todd to be diagnosed. I asked Todd if it has ever gotten as bad as when JA first developed and he said not quite, but that he does have difficult times.
Mike mentioned that he tried to talk Todd out of being a race car driver, a career which runs in this Pennsylvania family, but to no avail. Racing is incredibly difficult on the body. The heat, the jarring forces, nothing is easy on the body. There are times that Todd may be found laying on the cold garage floor for a bit of relief from the heat. The only medication he uses right now is OTC NSAIDS to combat pain and swelling.