By Clare Morin
Here is a fitting metaphor from the Atacama Crossing 2011; Canadian competitor Blain Davis pushes his way through the high altitude of the desert, inhaling all the oxygen he can muster into his lungs - and every step he takes is being placed with the intention of saving lives.
Blain’s seven-year old son, Jack, is suffering from cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in his lungs and digestive tract. It is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children, and creates many challenges in all facets of everyday life.
“He takes 40 pills a day to help digest his food,” explains his father. “He also has three physio sessions a day; one before school, one after school, and one before bed. The physio sessions are with a machine called VEST – it shakes him and helps stop mucous from building up in his lungs.”
The reason why Blain is in Chile is because of Jack. The physical trainer is raising funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Canada, and he is also in the process of starting the Jack Davis Hope Foundation, which will help low income families purchase the VEST machine.
It was in 2006 when Blain first decided to run for the disease. He had been on various boards for cystic fibrosis, but says he was finding it hard to make a difference. Then one day, he read about the Sahara Race. He was inspired to run across the Sahara in 2007, and then took on the Gobi March 2009.
It isn’t his running prowess, he says, that is pushing him, but his desire to help. “I feel I am not a good runner although my wife would say that I’m a gifted runner,” explains the 39-year old. “I find training hard due to the fact that it’s winter in Canada, minus 31 Celsius is typical - so training is hard.”
He says it is the thought of Jack that propels him on (and his fellow competitors in the Los Flamencos tent, where laughter is always abounding). The Canadian is in high hopes as he crosses the Atacama, although he says that since arriving in Chile he has been struggling with the altitude. “I arrived three days early but didn’t get out of San Pedro. I did a 10km run and thought my lungs would explode.”
It is making him understand what his son has to go through everyday of his life. “We have a motto in our family,” says Blain. “Life is not about the number of breathes we take, but the moments that take our breath away. I hope that this will keep him going. The motto is for him. I know that his life will be short, but it is about living the moment, not counting them.”