Image of Dustin, his wife Adrian and their dog Baxter at what appears to be a school in a doorway.

Dustin Fast – A Legacy of Living for Others 

Dustin Fast – A Legacy of Living for Others 

Utqiagvik, Alaska is one of the northernmost cities in the entire world. In fact, it actually sits 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which means you’ll experience 24-hour sunlight from May 10th to August 10th. Until 2016, it was known as Barrow. 

And it’s where Dustin Fast developed his love of computer science. 

“Dustin was a brilliant computer programmer,” recalls his wife Adrian. “[He] started as a teen while living in Barrow and, as I understand it, [was] the first kid there to own a computer, which he saved for and bought on his own.” 

Before he turned his love of computers into a career, Dustin first heard a calling to serve his country. Between 2007 and 2008, he spent 10 months deployed in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, serving as an infantryman and gunner. 

Following his deployment, Dustin returned home and fixed his focus back on computer science. He began a career with Boeing in Alabama as an artificial intelligence software engineer, after receiving his B.S. in computer science from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2018. 

But in 2020, a couple years into his job with Boeing, Fast was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to loss of muscle movement, and initial symptoms and signs can vary. For Dustin, he lost use of his upper extremities first, followed eventually by the lower extremities. The rapid progression of the disease meant that in order for Dustin to maintain functionality in daily life, he would need the assistance of complex rehab technology. 

Enter the Quantum iLevel power wheelchair. 

Adrian recalls what made iLevel stand out when Dustin first used the chair. “He loved that it allowed him to maintain independence for much longer,” she said. “He was still able to control his iLevel chair because the joystick was so sensitive and simple to use.” 

Image of Dustin sitting in his Quantum Rehab power wheelchair holding his nephew.

That simplicity allowed Dustin to continue to do the things he loved with his family, despite his worsening condition. For a person with many passions and interests, an active lifestyle on the move was still possible. 

“[It] allowed him to take his nephews for rides on his chair, take walks with his dog Baxter and me, go to our favorite places to eat and have a beer, wander around in nature,” Adrian explained. “We were able to make so many more memories that simply wouldn’t have been an option without the iLevel.” 

Those family connections became stronger as time went on. As Adrian describes it, Dustin was an avid ice hockey fan, and the iLevel chair allowed him to not only attend an NHL playoff game, but many of his nephew’s practices and games. And major life events weren’t out of the question either. Dustin was able to witness his younger brother’s wedding day. 

“We definitely would’ve missed that without his chair,” Adrian said. 

That goes for simple moments around the house, too. 

“It allowed him a more comfortable option for…just spending time with me in the kitchen while I prepared food for us. He would often make a lap around the kitchen before stopping behind me and having me lift the armrest so he could lay his head on my chest and put his arm around my waist while I was cooking.” 

Dustin seated in his Quantum Rehab chair with iLevel and his dog Baxter.

While he and Adrian were able to savor these special moments for a time, Dustin’s battle with ALS ended in December of 2021, when he passed away at the age of 39. Prior to his passing, Dustin enrolled in a study with Veterans Affairs, ultimately donating his brain and spinal cord to further study the effects of ALS. 

“He was an incredibly proud uncle to his two nephews, Jackson and Bryson,” Adrian said. “And he adored his golden retriever, Baxter, whom he raised from six weeks old and trained himself.” 

Through service to his country, exemplary work in the field of software engineering, and a loving commitment to his family and friends, Dustin Fast forged a legacy as bright and vibrant as the 24-hour sunlight in Utqiagvik.