Scaling Mt. Everest is a tremendous achievement even for the fittest of climbers. For those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, it was unheard of-until now.
Reaching the summit of Mount Everest, 29,035 feet above sea level, is a tremendous achievement even for the fittest of mountain climbers. For those afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it was unheard of—until May 14, that is, when 38-year-old Jeffrey Gottfurcht became the first person who suffers from the disease to scale the world’s highest mountain.
The successful ascent, which followed a failed effort last year, took just under two months. Given that many afflicted with RA experience pain from simple movements, Gottfurcht’s achievement is all the more impressive. Indeed, Gottfurcht says that his doctors deemed the climb “worse than a bad idea,” though he claims that this only made him more committed to completing it.
For two years after he was diagnosed with RA at the age of 28, Gottfurcht couldn’t walk or even sit down because bending his knees was so painful. His condition has moderated since, though he continues to experience significant joint pain. “I still have a lot of pain in my knees, hips, and wrists and can't bend my wrists back, but climbing a mountain involves very different movements,” he told ABC News. “It's a lot of pulling on ropes.”
Finding the right drug to treat his pain and inflammation has been a challenge. Gottfurcht was originally on methotrexate, but went off it because the drug can lower sperm count and he wanted to become a father. (He and his wife now have three children.) Other drugs given intravenously weren’t an option given the altitudes to which he wanted to climb. He ultimately settled on Nyloxin, an over-the-counter cream used to treat chronic pain whose active ingredient is cobra venom. (Nutra Pharma Corporation, which makes Nyloxin, was one of the sponsors of Gottfurcht’s expedition.)
Gottfurcht, a California native who now lives in Los Altos, started climbing high peaks as a teenager and has long aimed to summit Everest. He says that he was inspired to achieve his goal by the children he saw in his rheumatologist’s office. To help these children make their own dreams come true, he has started the Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation.
“My ultimate message is that everybody has a Mt. Everest in their life, " Gottfurcht told ABC News, "and no matter what condition you have, you can still go out and try things and live a life full of quality.”
Around the Web:
Climbing Everest: Despite rheumatoid arthritis, Los Altos resident scales summit [Los Altos Town Crier]