[David's birthday is soon - April 6! Please consider a birthday gift to the David F. Andretta Explorer Fund. This scholarship will be awarded annually to a Georgetown University undergraduate student seeking to explore the world through an academic research project. See http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54938819982 for more details.]
The first time I met David I was interviewing him for a resident physician position at our hospital. He told me that when he finished his med school classes the next month he was going to Australia to play for a few months.
Honestly, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I thought it was a bit out of line for him to be asking for a job while boasting about his upcoming several-month vacation. And I think I was a little jealous too... But overall, we liked and were impressed by David, so he got the job.
David has worked with us for just over 2 years in the ER. And I must say he's more than a little different than anyone I've ever known.
David easily is one of the smartest people I've ever met. So smart in fact that his speech rarely can keep up with his mind. He will ask me a question and, in the process of asking, answer his own question in 3 different ways while unknowingly actually cite the sources that he at some point read to formulate the answers.
Sometimes David had trouble communicating with patients. Its hard to take the superior mind and bring it down to the conversation level of most of my patients. His speech was quick and free of southern drawl; a rarity among the lazy words most commonly spoken in Alabama.
David had a zest for life that few can match. He had travelled the world so extensively that he could mesmerize you with stories about his travels. He married his longtime girlfriend Melissa, who works for IcelandAir, last September. He climbed regularly - mountains, boulders, walls. He was passionate about climbing, and more than once he had promised to get me on a wall and show me the ropes.
David and Melissa were travelling in Africa this week when he decided to climb Table Mountain in South Africa. Melissa waited at the top while David ascended.
But he never made it.
Yesterday morning rescuers retrieved his body from a ridge after he apparently had fallen to his death.
I'll miss you David... Happy travels, my friend.
Read more about David here, or about the fall and rescue attempt here.
From Melissa, 8-12-07: We keep telling "Dave" stories and thinking about David's zest for life and unique way of living. I would like for others to do the same and was hoping you might be able to post a few photos of our trip on your site. The first was taken as we drove along the Blyde River Canyon the day after we arrived in South Africa. The one with the rainbow was taken on the evening of August 3 as we were hiking down from Lion's Head mountain where the sun was setting.
Up until his death, David was truly happy and I want others to know that and remember him not only for the way he died, but lived. We had been in South Africa for over a week and had been on a safari that can only be described as magical. From spotting all Big 5 to loving every minute of a four day hiking safari where we had extremely close encounters with a rhino, elephants and even two lions, we felt truly blessed and just had the biggest smiles on our faces. We had been in Cape Town for a few days and the day before his death, David was able to fufill a long time dream of cage diving with the Great White sharks off the coast of Gansbaai. He was truly living and loving life.