Row for Hemophilia: Meet Jacob Pope and Christopher Lee

Imagine rowing a boat from California to Hawaii, a journey of almost 2,500 miles across the dangerous and unpredictable Pacific Ocean. Now add in the thrill and stress of competition. AND the fact that one man on your two-man crew has hemophilia. Seems a little crazy, right?! I thought so too. But Jacob Pope and Christopher Lee don’t think so. They plan to complete this amazing feat this summer and hopefully out-row the 11 other teams they will be racing against. I spoke with Jacob and Chris a few weeks ago to get the rundown of how they came up with this amazing idea and how they are preparing to complete such an arduous task.

Jacob wasn’t diagnosed with hemophilia A until the age of seven when a fall in a creek led to massive swelling in his hip. Being in a rural area doctors didn’t think about hemophilia being the culprit of the swelling and ended up having surgery to remove the hematoma….when they didn’t know he had hemophilia! They then inserted a tube to drain the blood...and still didn’t think of hemophilia. Finally Jacob was transferred to another hospital where he finally found out he had hemophilia.

Despite his rough start with hemophilia Jacob was still able to explore different sports and found a love for tennis and swimming. He wanted to stay active and hemophilia wasn’t going to hold him back. This love of being active stayed with him as he headed for college. Jacob had never been into rowing before but an opportunity to join the rowing team appealed to him. He gave it a shot and was hooked!

That’s where he met Chris Lee, another rower with an incredible dream. They had both walked onto the University of Georgia’s rowing team almost three years ago and Chris didn’t know about Jacob’s hemophilia until they were roommates at the national championships. Chris walked in to Jacob infusing, “I was really confused and thought it was weird.” Chris recalled. “I remembered hearing something about Jacob having a disease but I didn’t really think about it until that point.”

Chris had heard about the Race Across the Pacific and thought Jacob would be a perfect teammate, hemophilia or not. “When Chris first asked if I wanted to spend the summer rowing a boat across the ocean I said ‘No way!’ but it stuck with me. I did more research and learned what it entailed and told him I was in.” Jacob recalls. And this decision is where the journey began.

Jacob and Chris testing out the boat they will row across the Pacific!

Jacob and Chris testing out the boat they will row across the Pacific!

After speaking with Chris and Jacob, I can see my mentality preparing for my climbs in them as well. One big thing that I constantly tell myself is “Whatever your excuse is, it’s time to stop believing it”. Jacob and Chris have some insane hurdles ahead of them, plus the hemophilia, but they are determined to succeed. Jacob is still planning how to carry enough factor on the tiny boat, keep it from getting to hot, and infusing on a ridiculously bumpy ocean but Jacob is positive, “There’s a way to do it if you’re smart about.” Having a teammate like Chris makes the challenge easier. “This does give me some fear but it’s one of those challenges that we can strategically and logistically overcome.”

Their biggest challenge might actually be before the race even begins. They have been training intensely, modifying their boat for factor storage, learning the ends and outs of navigating the ocean. All things that training can prepare them for but even getting to the race is where they need some outside help. Our help! Jacob and Chris are struggling to raise funds for their challenge and it’s coming down to the wire. Please support these two on their worthy journey by clicking here and sharing! Lets help these guys make history and show how we can #playitsmart to the world!

Row for Hemophilia is a fundraising campaign benefitting Hemophilia of Georgia and research for a cure. Jacob and Chris are University of Georgia students who are on the rowing team and have a connection to hemophilia and to Hemophilia of Georgia.