It’s hard to miss Jack Fussell running down the road in his neon yellow fitness shirt pushing a baby stroller he calls “Wilson.”
Fussell, a Talking Rock resident, arrived in Dalton on Thursday as a stopping point in his awareness journey from Skidaway Island in Savannah to Monterey, Calif. He is visiting Alzheimer’s Association offices, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other locations as he works to raise $250,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association in memory of his father who died in 2000.
He and Wilson hit mile 508 of 3,591 when they entered Dalton Thursday afternoon on his way down from Fort Mountain. Two women who described themselves as Fussell’s “biggest fans” were waiting for him at the Alzheimer’s Association on Morris Street when he got there. Molly Myers, a registered nurse with Peace for You In-Home Care Inc. in Dalton, and volunteer Sally Hart said they heard about Fussell’s epic journey through the Alzheimer’s Association and media coverage and wanted to meet him in person.
They promptly had him sign their purple T-shirts in support of his cause and greeted him with enthusiastic hugs and questions about his journey.
It’s a journey with an external cause — fighting Alzheimer’s — but also a very personal one.
A sedentary lifestyle
Fussell wasn’t always the type to spend his weeks traversing the American countryside on foot.
In fact, Fussell was more the type to enjoy eating a diet of whatever pleased him, being more than 100 pounds overweight, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and, he said, being so stressed that he suffered from a bleeding ulcer that nearly killed him.
In 2000, his father died after battling prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. About nine months later, Fussell was admitted to the hospital with a bleeding ulcer and told he had just two hours to live. Then something happened that changed his life.
While he was undergoing a test that involved monitoring his heart in such a way even he could see how fast it was beating, the young nurse asked her then 50-year-old patient whether he was scared. Fussell admitted he was. She empathized.
“I would be scared, too,” he remembers her saying as she laid a hand on his arm. Then she asked jokingly if he was married and feigned disappointment when he told her he was. His rapid heart rate immediately began slowing to normal. Another person’s care and sympathy, he said, had made all the difference in the world in his stress level.
“I have always since then thought ‘I want to do that for people,’” he said.