April 19, 2013

Points East: In hopes of a cure

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — If you were searching for a Diabetes Poster Family, mine and Loretta’s might, at least, make your list of finalists.

       I have type II diabetes, an affliction that ultimately killed my grandfather, as well as one aunt and one uncle.  Our son, Christopher has had type I since he was around 10 years old.  Now, at the tender age of 35, Chris has had so many, harrowing, close calls with death that we’ve literally lost count.

Our 4-year-old grandson, Tyler Kane Ochs, was diagnosed with Type I before he reached his third birthday. During the first year of Tyler’s disease, he had to have at least six blood tests a day and as many insulin injections.  Try explaining that to a kid who is just learning to talk.

If there is such a thing though, Tyler is one of the lucky diabetic kids.  His mom, our daughter, Jennifer is a well- experienced, first-grade teacher, has a master’s degree in early childhood education, and her husband, Kevin Ochs, runs a highly respected physical therapy clinic in Richmond.  Suffice to say Tyler’s parent’s have keen understandings of the ways diabetes affects both his behavior and his physical development.

When Chris was diagnosed, Loretta and I were in states of manageable panic for several years. We read tons of literature published by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), talked to the few other parents we could find and drove several doctor’s crazy with “here’s the situation/what do we do now?” types of calls.

Compared to what the boys have gone through, managing my disease has been nothing more than a minor irritation.  Sort of like comparing a gnat bite to a rattlesnake’s.  I simply have to watch what I eat and remember to take a pill twice a day.  Nothing at the store goes into our grocery cart before we’ve read the sugar and carbohydrate content.   In the final analysis, except for the daily metformin, I don’t do anything that anyone concerned with healthy living ought to be doing.  

Thanks to research and development, mostly spearheaded by ADA, both Chris and Tyler now have access to medicine and medical devices that make managing their diseases far more affordable, convenient, accurate and much less painful than they were just a few short years ago.  

Both of them still have to do blood tests several times a day, but even Tyler can do his own.  Tyler even has a computerized insulin pump that only has to be changed every couple of days instead of having to have needle injections of insulin six times a day.  He can also do pretty much anything any other kid his age can manage and he could probably tear up an anvil if he put his mind to it.

Still, diabetes requires Tyler as well as his parents, his brother, his grandparents, other extended family, teachers and friends be aware and even alert to the fact that he has the disease. Diabetes  is a humungous burden for a child to bear and, so, we do what we can to support and encourage research that may ultimately lead to a cure for this monster.  We also believe there is not a disease-related charity in the world that is doing more to address the purpose for which it was founded than the American Diabetes Foundation.

As we did last year on the first Saturday in June, Tyler Kane Ochs, his family and several of his and our close friends will assemble at Keeneland  as “Team TKO” and join several thousand other ADA supporters in the annual Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes.  

I may well be in a wheel chair, but I intend to manage a least a mile around the trail and Tyler may have to be in my lap if he gets tired.  

I’m simply asking readers of my column to make a cash donation and help sponsor Team TKO again this year.  Last year, you helped Team TKO contribute over $2,500 to Step Out.  We don’t really have a goal in mind this year but we’d like to top last year.  The Keeneland walk, last year, raised over a quarter million dollars and was one of the most successful in the nation.  

The easiest and most convenient way to donate is online.  Simply go to and click DONATE at the top of the page.  You will then be asked to support a participant or a team. Click on one or the other.  Then type in either my name or Team TKO and follow your nose.

If, like me, you wish to make a paper donation (cash or personal check), make checks payable to American Diabetes Association and enter Team TKO on the memo line.  Mail your donation directly to me at 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.  Tyler and I will turn the money into ADA and make sure you get a receipt.   Any amount will be greatly appreciated. We are as interested in the numbers of people who support us as we are in dollar amounts.


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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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