- Mitchell Northam The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Many parents say that they will do anything for their children, but for Doug Wright, that meant going to the top of the world and enduring freezing temperatures.
The 58-year-old stay-at-home dad from Milton wanted to do something to raise awareness for Type 1 diabetes, a disease his 8-year-old son Jake lives with.
Earlier this month, Wright ran a half-marathon in the North Pole. He didn’t see Santa’s Workshop or any polar bears, but Wright raised more than $4,500 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“Going to the North Pole for me was drawing that extreme,” Wright said. “People ask, ‘Why are you doing that?’ and I say, ‘Well, because my kid has Type 1 diabetes and I think that’s pretty freakin’ extreme.’ So, I’m going to do what I can to support him.”
‘My son was going to live’
With nine children coming before Jake, Wright and his wife thought they had seen everything. They knew how to handle all types of illnesses and injuries any kid might get.
Jake started getting sick in Febuary 2016. He was vomiting often, he didn’t want to eat and he wasn’t getting better.
Wright took his boy to the nearest hospital and after a nurse and doctor saw him they told Wright that his youngest son was in distress and that they couldn’t help him. Wright scooped Jake off the table and took him to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital where he got the proper care he needed.
“To have that facility here is a blessing to those who live in this area,” Wright said. “I think if I had to drive another 20 minutes, we would’ve lost Jake. By the time we got there, he was incoherent.”
While medical professionals were working on Jake, a doctor stepped away from the table to ask Wright if there was a history of diabetes in the family. Wright said, “No. Not at all. Nothing.”
Jake had tubes in his arms, his clothes were ripped off, and doctors were trying everything. Finally, a doctor turned to Wright and told him they were going to treat Jake as if he had Type 1 diabetes. And it worked. Jake was stabilized and began getting better.
“The doctor started talking about a lot of things, but all I heard him say was that my son was going to live,” Wright said. “That’s all I wanted to know.”
Jake nearly died from diabetic ketoacidosis and was eventually diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Then, the in-home care started.
With today’s technology, Jake and his family can constantly monitor his blood glucose levels on his iPhone with the use of a device called a Dexcom, an FDA approved device that can be attached to a diabetic’s body and will send readings using Bluetooth.
Shortly after discovering Jake had diabetes, Wright and his wife began researching the disease and looking at organizations who were raising money for research and awareness. The one they liked the most was JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“There’s no hidden dream or agenda with them,” Wright said. “… They do what they can to help (diabetics) live a normal life. There’s an understanding that, they may never find a cure, but they’re going to make sure (diabetics) wake up in the morning and (live) like the rest of us do.”
Wright eventually got the feeling that he wanted to do something extreme to show his son he had his back with his extreme disease.
Scrolling through Facebook one day, he saw an ad and article on the North Pole Marathon. Wright said he hadn’t ran a race since 1996, but that didn’t stop him — his mind was made up and he began training.
Wright prepped his body and arrived in the North Pole on April 9 to run a half-marathon. He wore many layers for the race that included more than 50 people from 24 countries. The temperatures dipped down to 40 degrees below zero.
Ten miles into the race, cramps kicked in and Wright found himself on his back in the snow. He was punching the ground in a fit of rage. Eventually, two other runners came along and helped him stretch. Wright was good to go and completed six more miles.
The track of the marathon includes a tent where runners can go in, hydrate, change clothes and warm up. Wright says he changed clothes three times — because wearing sweaty clothes can result in hypothermia — and he was out on the ice for eight hours. He thinks he did well for someone who hadn’t ran a race in 21 years.
And Wright did raise some money for JDRF too. As of April 28, he had raised $4,528.44. Folks who wish to donate to the cause can visit the donation page.
“You don’t go to the North Pole to set land-speed records,” Wright said. “You go there for the experience and a cause. When I heard about the North Pole marathon, I talked to my wife and said, ‘You know, we talk about going to the ends of the Earth for our children. How about we do it?’.”