Listen to DSMA Live on 12/29/11, 9 PM EST (Listen Live)
Hi I’m Steve. I grew up in New York state (upstate, not the city!) and I basically grew up in the woods. I always wanted to climb mountains and cliffs but I didn’t know where to start. I didnt think that I could do it–I figured that it was a pastime reserved for people who were lucky enough to be born in Colorado or something. I kept dismissing this recurring dream as a made my way through adolescence until high-school came along and I re-located to Alaska of all places! I was in the natural playground that most people only dream of–but shortly after settling in to my new life, I wound up in the ICU at Fairbanks Memorial Hosipital with lesions on my cortex (brain infections) which came as a result of a bout of Encephalitis. To be honest I don’t remember much about that time–in fact there are a couple of days when my condition became quite severe that are simply “gone” from my memory. With one notable exception–I DO remember getting a spinal tap and the size of the needle…but maybe it’s for the best that I didnt remember much after that!
Once I was out of the ICU, they told me that during my bout with Encephalitis, my pancreas had been attacked by my immune system and that I would have to take injections of insulin for the rest of my life and not eat sweets. I was now a juvenile diabetic. As I lay in the hospital recuperating for the next several days, I remember thinking “I’ll eat nothing but twigs and wheatgrass if it means that I don’t have to be treated like a victim”…Everyone wanted to sell me a bill of good–support groups, special socks, medic-alert tags and so on. I wanted to take care of myself and not be defined by my condition.
Once I returned to normal life and school, I began learning how to care for myself and I began to see that exercise was going to be part of my “medication” from that point on. In Phys-Ed class, we did a unit on climbing and rappelling and my dreams of the high and wild were re-kindled. I set my mind on being self-sufficient in order to get to experience climbing in the mountains.
Through the remainder of high-school and college I ran tests and experiments on myself–diet, exercise and insulin regimens were all tweaked to increase my blood glucose control. There was a price to pay for all of this though–I realized early on that alcohol, smoking and low quality foods were luxuries in which I could not afford to indulge. The austerity measures of my diet kept me out of the social mainstream and sometimes made dating a challenge.
The motivating factors that saw me through those times and continue today have been two things: I wanted to climb, and I wanted to be strong. Dealing with type1 diabetes is sometimes frustrating. It’s a slow process. Its relentless and there is a high price to pay for sloppiness.–just like climbing!
I have been fortunate enough to find jobs that are active since graduating college in 2005. In 2009 I started working as a climbing guide–merging my passion and my job. Through guiding I have gotten the privilege of working with many amazing people and seeing how climbing can impact people who think they “can’t” do it. My wife, Stefanie has helped me manage my condition and encourage me through times when I feel like I am “losing” the fight.–and she suggested that we take on and film a climbing challenge to help other people who think they “cant”.
So, here we are, about to embark on the greatest adventure of our lives–who knows what will happen next?
Climbing is what I CAN do sometimes, because Type 1 is what I MUST do all the time.
- Steve Richert
(bio via livingvertical.org)