You work hard, take care of yourself and try to do the right thing. You start each day with the belief that you’ve got it together in this life.
Then one day, after a brief illness and visits to doctors to treat that nagging tickle in your throat, life spins like a top before your eyes.
David Deitch picks up his story: “The doctor said, ‘I think it may be ALS,’ which meant nothing to me. I had no idea what that meant. I think he could tell by the way I reacted that I didn’t know. So he said, ‘Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease,’ which I had heard of, but I really didn’t know what it meant. So I went back to the office.”
In front of the computer screen, he searched for an answer.
“I’m there by myself, looking this up, and … ‘Fatal disease, no known cure.’ “
That is not what Deitch had planned, not what he had worked so hard for as a broker at KIA Insurance. He exercised, watched his diet, played tennis. He was an insurance guy; he knew the odds of a long life increased by taking care of the fundamentals.
But Lou Gehrig’s disease follows no rule book and ruins the most precise and professional of actuarial charts.
As I sit on a couch in the impeccably appointed living room of Deitch’s southwest valley home, I wonder how I would feel faced with a similarly grim diagnosis. These days, the tickle in Deitch’s throat has worsened to the point it obscures his speech, and he sees a therapist for it. The Las Vegas native and Clark High graduate knows that in time the neurological disease will spread.
Instead of closing the curtains and pulling up the covers, David Deitch is doing something quite extraordinary. He’s embracing his new life on its challenging terms. He might be more alive now than any time in his 51 years.
In March, he was baptized as a Catholic and felt the embrace of his church and his God.
In June, he married Lisa, whom he calls the nicest and most caring and genuine person he’s ever known.
He fell in love quickly, but adds, “How could I not? … Lisa knows what I am up against and said she is with me no matter what.
“I truly believe that God caused our paths to cross for a very special reason.”
And he’s helping to raise funds for ALS research, not so much for himself, but for those who will be diagnosed with the disease in years to come.
With help from his insurance industry friend Rebecca Purdy of the Clark County Association of Health Underwriters, a charity golf tournament is scheduled for Oct. 16 at Siena Golf Club with proceeds to benefit ALS TDI, the world’s largest ALS research laboratory. (There are spots available. For more information e-mail: email@example.com.)
The last thing he says he wanted to be was an ALS “poster boy,” but he realizes there are no changes without commitment. And he will remain committed.
“Now it’s not really about me. It’s about everyone facing this. I realize what I’m up against. I think that if a cure is found, it’s going to be found by them. Anything I can do to help, I’m in.”
Deitch speaks more slowly and with difficulty.
“My thing is, I am going to get past this,” he says. “Through God’s help, and my own positive outlook, that’s how I think I am going to get past this.
“Do I ever get down? I do. But I just keep thinking that, ‘You’re getting past this.’ “
As the interview winds on, Deitch appears to be tiring. He speaks more methodically now, and he wants to tell me something to pass along.
“It’s about having people be aware of their family and friends,” he says. “So many times something happens to someone you care about and you think, ‘God, I wish I would have called them. I always meant to get together and never did.’ We get wrapped up in our careers.
“Pay more attention to the people that are important in your life.”
As he moves through these precious days, with Lisa at his side, David Deitch’s life reverberates with meaning.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.