In the process, the computer administrator hopes to draw attention and change to what he says is the lack of knowledge in the public and lack of support from the medical community and insurance companies for those dealing with Lyme Disease, a tick-borne illness.
He has set up an informational page on Facebook titled, “Quest 46” to keep people inform and keep people updated on his efforts to break the 46er hiking record as well as to share information and stories from others about their battles with Lyme Disease.
Both efforts, he said, are in honor of his wife, Brianna, who was recently diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease – a condition that appears to getting worse despite an initial regime of antibiotics.
The record for hiking the 46 High Peaks was set in 2008 by Jan Wellford, who got to the summits of every one in 3 days, 17 hours and 14 minutes. Valastro said he’s been in touch with Wellford.
With Wellford’s help, he said he’s come up with a game plan for a “supported hike,” where he gets transported to and from trailheads and help with supply (food, water) drops. He is planning his attempt for some time in August, he said.
Valastro said his wife was first diagnosed with Lyme disease three months after suffering, on-and-off headaches, fever, nagging muscle and joint pains.
“She’s one of these people who never gets sick. The tipping point was when she started having heart palpitations,” he said. He took her to the hospital where 19 samples of blood were taken for various tests.
Initially, the couple was told that all tests were negative. However, two days later they were told Brianna tested positive for Lyme disease.
She recently finished an initial regime of antibiotics. That didn’t cure her and her symptoms are persisting, getting worse, Valastro said. The medical bills are mounting,
And things couldn’t have happened at a worse time, Valastro said. He said the house where he grew up in and he owned burned to the ground last year. His 15-year-old dog died and his truck, his only means of transportation, broke down beyond repair, among other things.
So, why did you decided to do these two things?
When my wife came down with Lyme Disease I started going online and reading up on it, and found out it’s one of the fastest-growing diseases in the country. I read stories about individuals who have struggled with the long-term effects, and how more often than not they didn’t get the help they needed. It pissed me off. My wife is about to begin advanced treatments for her condition and our insurance won’t cover them. We’ve spent our savings and sold most of our possessions that had any value. We’ve been forced to take out loans just to keep the bills paid and pay for Brianna’s treatment.
The cause is noble — but hiking all the High Peaks? Has anyone told you that you’re nuts?
Nobody has told me that yet, but I expect it. My answer will be that sometimes to obtain unreasonable goals you have to expect to do unreasonable things. That’s what it boils down to. The whole point is to create awareness for my wife and anyone else suffering from Lyme Disease.
What kind of shape are you in right now? Talk about what you’re doing to get in shape.
I’m a big hunter, a hiker. I’ve been athletic most of my life. I have a pretty extensive background in fitness and nutrition. As part of the Healthy Hunter’s group, I’ve built fitness plans for individuals and groups. I plan to be obsessed with this. Right now, I’m getting up every morning to run at 4 a.m. – regardless of rain, sleet or snow — and then going to work. I come home, make dinner, care for my wife, put my 6-year-old son to bed – and sometimes I go out running again. I have time to be physically prepared. I’m confident my mental strength will get me through this.
What if you fail at breaking the record? What then?
There’s a lot of possible scenarios. Bad weather. I could break a leg. If one of those things happen I’ll recover, train and do it again. I will hike all 46 peaks. There’s not enough awareness about Lyme Disease. I want to show people that nothing is impossible if you’re the kind of person who believes that.