Bob Dornhecker is a 75 year Joslin medalist, one of only about 60 or so in the world. He lives at the retirement village in our town of 15,000 in the center of the Willamette Valley. He was recently featured in our local newspaper, on the occasion of being awarded his 75 year medal. I've wanted to meet him for some time.

Bob is presently 86. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 11. To give you a sense of how long ago that was, insulin had only been available for about 10 years or so. It was a time when diabetes treatment and management were just barely out of the dark ages -- but not by very much.

My wife, who volunteers several days a week at the retirement village, has known Bob for some time. I've wanted to meet and talk to him for quite a while, and yesterday I finally was able to. We had to cut our talk a bit short because his therapist came in to work with him on a non-diabetes-related problem, but we are both eager to continue the conversation and most certainly will.

When Bob was initially diagnosed -- at age 11 -- his doctor sat him and his mother down and explained that in ten years or so he would most likely be blind, an amputee, or worse. I don't know whether it was in reaction to that, or just plain old strength of character, but Bob's mother evidently heard that as a challenge. She sought out every scrap of knowledge available at that time and took charge of managing his diabetes with discipline and determination.

His doctor's gloomy predictions, needless to say, never came true. Even so, says Bob, he never intended to get married or start a family because of the pessimistic outlook. Then he found a doctor who essentially told him, "take care of yourself the way I tell you to, and you can live just as long and happily as anyone else." Imagine a doctor saying that to a patient 60 years ago!

(As an aside, the doctor's name was Blair Holcomb. He wrote several books and the house he lived in is a minor architectural landmark: )

Bob must have taken the advice to heart, because he's been married for 65 years. Frances, who has Alzheimer's, lives down the hall in the Memory Care unit. She still knows him and they spend time together every day without fail. Their two kids (both in their 60s now) visit as often as they can; they each live a few hours away.

And herewith, the latest installment of "it's a small world." After leaving Bob we drove to a nearby town to run a series of errands. While walking through the large downtown mall, we encountered a friend, a former County Commissioner who happens to be . . . Bob's nephew!

My immediate (and lasting) impression of Bob Dornhecker is of someone alert, fully engaged and with a consuming interest in everything around him. We were barely introduced when he asked me to tell him my story! LOL!

Just a truly nice guy. I can't wait to get to know him better.

For those interested, here is a link to our local paper's story about Bob's 75 year Joslin award:

Views: 287

Comment by Doris D on March 24, 2013 at 12:35pm

thanks david that's great!!!

Comment by David (dns) on March 24, 2013 at 1:38pm

LOL, Spring. Actually my next door neighbor just finished building one! He has been in love with the arts and crafts style of architecture forever. Two summers ago he razed the old house on his property and started building a new one almost from the ground up, in classic arts and crafts style. It's a work of art.

Comment by Gerri on March 24, 2013 at 2:22pm

Bob looks strong & healthy. When you see Bob again, please tell him he's got fans at Tu. Thanks for posting. Only thing that hasn't changed since Bob was diagnosed is discipline & attitude are still the most important factors.

Comment by Karen on March 24, 2013 at 2:45pm

He looks fantastic and happy!!!

Comment by Marcia Skidmore on March 24, 2013 at 4:09pm

WOnderful, positive share. GOod for you! Good for Bob to get to meet and get acquainted.

Comment by Trudy on March 25, 2013 at 11:29am

Hi David, thanks for telling us about Bob and his 75 years with Type 1; it's a remarkable story. In fact, it's hard to imagine his actually living most of his life with Type 1 Diabetes beginning at a time when there was so little medical knowledge about it and so few tools to help manage it. My paternal grandmother died of Type 1. My maternal grandmother had a bile stone block her pancreas, so she died of Diabetes as well. I feel so lucky to be living in a time when there are tools such as modern insulins, pumps, TuD and the DOC. Thanks again for your thoughtful blog.

Comment by Colleen in NH on March 25, 2013 at 4:49pm

Thanks! I enjoyed reading about Bob.

Comment by Richard157 on March 29, 2013 at 11:27am

Thanks so much,David! I enjoyed Bob's story. In 8 more years I will be getting the 75 year medal. There is a Joslin medalist meeting in Boston on May 10 and 11. My wife and I will be there. There are some 75 year medalists who usually attend too.

Comment by David (dns) on March 30, 2013 at 1:50pm

Met with Bob again today. The big Easter Egg Hunt was in progress and DRV was a madhouse with all the visitors, but we were able to chat for a few minutes. Showed him one of the Blair Holcomb books I found on Amazon. (Blair Holcomb was Bob's doctor, the one who told him he could live a perfectly normal life with diabetes.)

We talked about one of Dr. Holcomb's main themes, that diabetes is not what defines who you are but is just something you have in your life. That's not a very startling idea today, but it wasn't the sort of thing doctors were saying to patients 60 years ago! Bob is one of those people who dislikes the term "diabetic", for just that reason. He prefers to be considered a person with diabetes. I told him that a lot of the people I know would agree!

Comment by jrtpup on March 30, 2013 at 2:53pm

Sounds like a really wonderful guy David ;)


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