The 10-year-old paint and...
The 10-year-old paint and graphics have held up well, and the stock appearance right down to the wheels disguises the power and handling prowess within.
It was July 2002 when Mike Cude was considering buying a new Trans Ams—a fun play car to cruise beneath the desert skies of Tempe, Arizona. His son Justin, age 12 and a motorcross fan, later recalled that, “Dad was looking at a red WS6, but I saw a show on Speed Channel with Jay Leno and Tony Stewart testing out a Collector’s Edition Trans Am [CETA] around the high banks of Daytona; I mentioned it to him and he agreed.”
They found a good deal in Dallas, flew in, picked up CETA #1850 (according to PHS), and drove home. Thus Justin’s first bond with this Pontiac was forged—he did suggest it, after all.
The time for play was soon drastically reduced. The CETA sat as the Cude family turned their attention to a far more serious matter. “I had a cold for two weeks—it just wasn’t going away,” Justin recalls. “My neighbor is a doctor, and she checked me out. She noticed a blood rash on my back, which is a sign of meningitis. We went to the ER, where they did blood work, and on February 11, 2003, I was diagnosed with AML, or Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.” AML comes in several forms, but Justin describes his particular form thusly: “Chromosome number 16 inverted itself, and multiplied from there.”
Justin Cude overcame multiple...
Justin Cude overcame multiple sicknesses, including leukemia, to build up his ’02 CETA, hence the license plate, which he says applies to him and his Pontiac.
Most of seventh grade was spent in and out of the hospital. “The IV treatments would usually run a month at a time, then two weeks at home, then another treatment. I went three rounds in three months, and by the summer of 2003, I was in remission. We did have one complication. I was in the ICU and went septic.” Which means: “I was basically dead—my blood pressure was 30/19, but I was still conscious. I remember talking to the doctors, and all of a sudden they sounded the alarm.” Yet four days later, Justin walked out of the ICU under his own power.
For his eighth-grade year, Justin was back among his classmates, but AML roared back as he started his freshman year of high school—October 20, 2004, as Justin recalls. This time, “They sent me to a specialist hospital for more chemo, plus 11 rounds of full-body radiation. And the doctors began the search for a bone-marrow donor.”
With six million samples in marrow-donor banks around the world, “It took six weeks to find my 10-out-of-10 perfect match.” It turns out, she was from Germany. “On December 16, 2004, I received the marrow cells. I was in the hospital for 40 days, and was released the day before my 15th birthday.”
You’d think that would be it—surely that was more than enough for one body to endure. Alas, yet again, there were complications.
Justin is looking forward...
Justin is looking forward to putting plenty of miles on his clean and quick CETA, and possibly competing with it in handling challenges as well.
“In September 2005, my body over-reacted to a cold. Both of my lungs filled up with fluid and I literally couldn’t breathe.” Back to the hospital, where he was in the ICU in a medically-induced coma on a ventilator for two weeks. “The doctors couldn’t figure out what caused it, so they biopsied my lung. They took a piece about the size of a quarter and sent it to the Mayo Clinic. [The doctors there] couldn’t figure out what was wrong, either. So our doctors took the hail-mary approach with a drug cocktail, and they put a tube in my lung and drained it.”
It worked, but when Justin came to, he had to come to grips with the notion that he couldn’t ride motocross anymore. But his innate mechanical itch needed to be scratched. “That’s the point where I started to get more into cars,” he recalled.