CORNWALL, Ontario – For some, it begins with their foot and for others, their speech, but for one particular local man, it was his loss of balance which was the first indicator that something was definitely wrong.
Four years ago Ken Depatie, now 44, walked into his doctor’s office to get to the bottom of his symptoms and walked out stripped of his trucking licence and a grim diagnosis – ALS.
Within no time the disease took over his body to where he is now wheelchair bound and barely able to speak. His wife of 23 years, Carole, interprets for him.
“We were high school sweethearts,” she said.
About all he can manage are two steps to get in his wheel chair from his hospital bed, in the living room, where Carole also sleeps, in a twin bed pushed up against his.
“He needs help turning,” she said.
During the day he watches television – hockey and other sports. He’s rooting for the Ducks in the NHL playoffs. With the little thumb movement he has left, he plays video games and keeps in touch with his friends on Facebook.
Down to 133 lbs from 210, the father of two must rely on personal support workers for his daily routine – bath, toileting, eating, and physiotherapy. A social worker comes in, as well.
“That’s helpful,” Carole says. “It’s someone you can tell what you want.”
“It’s hard. It’s an everyday challenge but the attitude he has, there are days you wouldn’t think he was sick, unbelievable, he’s got a very good attitude that helps me a lot. I have my days… We’re taking it one day at a time,” she added.
“If it wasn’t for the ALS Society, we wouldn’t be able to get his bed. He’s lost so much muscle and weight,” she explains the strain on his tailbone, and the astronomical cost of the equipment needed – wheelchair, commode. “Now he has an air mattress.”
As for his prognosis, Ken says the doctors have told him to “keep on living,” which he fully intends on doing. “I want to see my kids grow up,” he manages to say.
The annual Walk for ALS will be held on June 6. Proceeds from the event will go towards research and to assist locals, living with the disease. For further details, visit www.walkforals.ca. You can also call local organizer, Melissa Ferguson, at 613-938-6775 or email, email@example.com.