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Running the Great Wall of China for Pediatric Pulmonology

October 26, 2007
Jeff Arricale

Jeff Arricale took on the Great Wall of China in the name of his son, Jake, for the division of pediatric pulmonology at Hopkins Children's.

Jeff Arricale and his T.Rowe Price colleagues set out to conquer the challenges of an arduous journey so other families won’t have to.

Along the loneliest stretches of the Great Wall of China, Jeff Arricale thought of the blessings in his life. Chief among themwas his family – particularly his 5-year-old son Jake in whose honor Arricale and two intrepid T. Rowe Price colleagues were traversing some of the steepest and harshest terrain in the world. Their endeavor would raise more than $60,000 to fund an internationally known visiting professor to deliver an annual lecture to teach and foster new research and therapies for thetreatment of chronic interstitial lung disease in children. Jake was diagnosed with the disease at Hopkins when he less than 6 months old.

Of the three colleagues who set out to conquer the 26-mile Great Wall marathon last spring, Arricale and Hopkins alum Liz Schlicher completed the grueling course. Alex Fray was side lined during the 21st mile by heat exhaustion. “The race awakened an element in all of us that we didn’t know was there,” says Arricale, a portfolio manager for the Baltimore-based investment firm, “the ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other for many hours despite heat, exhaustion and injury.”

A deep reservoir of fortitude was understandable in a man who, with his wife, Jessie, fought to keep their firstborn alive and safe those first years of life. As an infant, Jake was frequently ill, with charted failure to thrive and chronic breathing difficulties. By the time Jake, at the age of several months, was referred to Hopkins Children’s and into the care of pediatric pulmonologist Peter Mogayzel, his lungs were damaged and scarred from repeated infections and aspirations.

Mogayzel partnered with the Arricales to set in place lifestyle changes and therapies to prevent further damage and ensure their baby got the nutrition he needed to heal and grow. For more than a year, and until he could swallow and breathe properly, Jake slept nestled with his parents at night, attached to a feeding tube and oxygen. “We didn’t get much sleep,” says Arricale. “You could consider it early endurance training.”

As Jake grew, his family guarded him assiduously against infection. “We were a family obsessed with Purell,” says his father. “When a healthy child gets a cold, Jake gets pneumonia. The hope was that, given time and proper care, fresh lung tissue could grow and replace the scarred tissue. This is what seems to be happening.”

Today, almost five years later, Jake plays soccer and lacrosse and leads the life of an active pre-first student at St. James Academy in Monkton, Md. “He’s gotten so much stronger,” says his father. “You wouldn’t know there was anything wrong.”

The idea to run for Jake and Hopkins Children’s was born of a parent’s desire to give something back, with both appreciation and hopes of sparing other parents and children the similar ordeal of chronic illness. The Baltimore runners were supported by their T. Rowe Price colleagues; families like Fray’s and Schlicher’s, notably her father Harlan; and Jake’s school community.

“Raising the $60,000 was a team effort,” Arricale says. “We were never alone there in China in spirit or support.”  Nor in Baltimore, where the T. Rowe Price Foundation matched many of its associates’ contributions.

“What Jeff has accomplished is truly remarkable,” says Mogayzel. “He readily gives credit to others, but his efforts will enable physicians to improve the care of children like Jake and pave the way to new research and better therapies and diagnostic tools. Without money for studies, we can’t test new ideas and push through to prevention and cures.”

Leland Fan, from Texas Children’s Hospital, delivered the inaugural lecture at Hopkins on Dec. 12, 2007.