Amazing heart, Amazing Race

St. Boniface Hospital’s Tim Hague tackles the twin challenges of Parkinson’s and The Amazing Race Canada

Tim Hague, Sr. and Tim Hague, Jr.
Tim Hague, Sr. and Tim Hague, Jr. (CTV)
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Follow Tim's adventure on The Amazing Race Canada on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Mondday, July 22, 2013

St. Boniface Hospital Nurse Tim Hague isn't afraid of a challenge. Despite having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2011, Tim recently took part in The Amazing Race Canada, a physically grueling, 10-leg, 23,000 km adventure from coast to coast.

At stake is the top prize of $250,000, the opportunity to fly free for a year for two anywhere Air Canada flies worldwide and two 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingrays. As the show's website points out, that equivalent to the value of 167,224 hockey pucks, 178,572 cans of beer, and 33,356 half-litre jars of pure Canadian maple syrup.

But more importantly for Tim and his 23-year-old son and teammate, Tim Hague Jr., the race offered the opportunity to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, to see Canada, and to showcase determination in the fight against Parkinson's, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system for which there is currently no cure.

"My wife Sheryl and I are big fans of The Amazing Race," Tim says. "As soon as she heard it was coming to Canada, she wanted us to apply as a team. The requirements were that you needed to devote five weeks away from work, but with three kids still at home, that wasn't a realistic option. So she made the decision that my son and I should apply. She basically told us what to do and, as a good husband, I complied.

"My wife said ‘you're both Tims, you're both photogenic and they've never had a contestant with Parkinson's. I guarantee you'll get a call.' Lo and behold, she was right."

Thanks in part to an audition video they shot outside, shirtless and in their boxer shorts in a typically frigid Winnipeg February, the two Tims beat out more than 20,000 other applicants to take part in the nine-team race. The first episode aired June 15. The other episodes in the series air Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. on CTV, with additional content and "gamisodes" available online.

In this season's first episode the teams drove themselves to the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory, where they had to search for one of nine terrariums containing some of nature's "prettiest and poisonous" creatures. Each terrarium contained two clues filled with flight vouchers for Kelowna, their next destination. Once there, teams had to travel by jet ski across Lake Okanagan to "dive for Ogopogo." The team member who didn't dive for Ogopogo (in this case, Tim Sr.) had to complete a roadblock called "Walk the Plank," which involved jumping over the edge of the Bellevue Trestle into the canyon below.

After incurring a 30-minute penalty, the two Tims finished sixth at the end of episode one, but avoided elimination. As for how they fared in the show's remaining episodes, Tim says they've been sworn to secrecy - a fact that's driving some of their friends, family and co-workers a tad crazy.

"Most people are pretty good, but there's always someone who's trying to get the details out of you," Tim laughs. "We signed some pretty hefty non-disclosure agreements that offer plenty of encouragement to keep things to ourselves. You don't want to ruin the show. It's more fun to watch it play out on TV.

"I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was an absolutely tremendous experience," Tim says. "It is by far one of the best and most difficult things I've ever done in life and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Hopefully, my participation is a real encouragement not only to people with Parkinson's, but to anybody going though any sort of disease process. It's a chance for them to realize that a diagnosis doesn't have to be the end, doesn't have to define who you are, and doesn't have to prevent you from doing some of the things you want to do."

In any case, Tim wasn't about to let Parkinson's keep him from participating in the show.

"As a nurse for more than 20 years, I know that without a cure, Parkinson's will eventually win the war; it simply will. But that's not today. Today I can still run. Today I can still do The Amazing Race, today I can do my job. The goal is push back everyday and to not let Parkinson's steal little bits of your life. You've got to determine that ‘I'm going to do this.' Whether it's Parkinson's, running a race or just life, my motivator is always hope."
That's not to say that participating in the show while battling Parkinson's didn't present it's own set of challenges.

"I have a bit of a tremor and I get terribly tired and those are the two symptoms that come into play on the show. When I get tired, it's harder to stay focused and concentrate on what I need to do. My son was a huge help to me on many occasions. There were a couple of key moments where he literally hauled me along and helped me get through a few things. The Parkinson's is not a huge impact, but it is a definitely a pain in the neck. It's like a three-year-old child tugging at your shirtsleeve, and he never, ever stops."
Despite the challenges, the two Tims had a blast.

"The game is far more about smarts and persistence than simply being the fittest or fastest. To win a challenge, you have to be a little smarter, a little luckier, and have something that comes out in your favor. To do well on The Amazing Race, you have to demonstrate tenacity, perseverance and strength of character. Winnipeggers and Manitobans know how to do that."

Viewers who are expecting to see the kind of squabbling that sometimes takes place between team members may be disappointed, however.

"It doesn't make for very good TV, but you won't see a whole lot of conflict between us. We've always gotten along well. Since he's been married and out on his own, he's his own man, so the show gave us an opportunity to grow our relationship beyond our traditional roles as father and son. We had an absolutely fabulous time."

Born in Texas and raised in Kansas, Tim says he's delighted that CTV would spend it's own hard-earned dollars - "millions of them" - to showcase what Canada has to offer.
"I've seen things I didn't know existed in Canada and was absolutely floored by them. That's going to be another highlight for folks watching the show. I'm thrilled that I could be a part of it.

Tim also thanks the management at St. Boniface Hospital for allowing him to take a break from his duties as Manager of Utilization to take part in the show.

"The hospital was absolutely fantastic about allowing me the time away. They basically said, ‘How do you turn down the chance of a lifetime? What do you need?' I'm very grateful to them for their openness."

Of course, they do get a little something for their trouble.

"My co-workers are having a lot of fun with it. It's brought a lot of smiles to people's faces and gives us something to talk about besides the everyday routine. I had a line-up of people at my door playfully chewing me out for making a mistake on the show. They were all too happy to come and give me grief about that."

With the taping of The Amazing Race Canada now complete, Tim is turning his attention to participating in the Parkinson's Society of Manitoba's Super Walk on September 7. To support him in that cause, click here.

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