08/05/07 — Duplin family struggles with man's diseases

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Duplin family struggles with man's diseases

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on August 5, 2007 2:00 AM

All Tim Gautier wants is to walk again or at least ride in the fresh air -- as long as it's not too hot outside.

People with multiple sclerosis can't stand the heat. Gautier, who is 41, has multiple sclerosis and diabetes. These health issues keep his wife, Donna, and his mother, Carolyn, wearing a path between their homes in the Scotts Store community of Duplin County and Wayne Memorial Hospital.

"His mom has to take us everywhere we go," Donna Gautier said.

The frequent trips to the hospital began in April 2006, when diabetic ketoacidosis almost took his life. Medical complications have followed ever since then, and Gauiter has been unable to walk or feed or bathe himself.

He also hasn't said a lot.

"We're lucky to get him to say 10 words a day," his wife said.

Most of the time, he will nod for yes or shake his head for no.

"He used to talk, talk, talk. Now, I wish and pray for those days to be back," his mother said.

The family has financial problems, too.

Donna quit work in October 2006 to be with him. And by the time the Gautiers make the house payment and pay the light and phone bill and the car and homeowners insurance premiums, his disability check is gone.

They live out of his mother's freezer. She lives nearby and always cooks enough for herself and them, too.

Her husband, Frank Gautier, died in 1997. He, too, had diabetes. He lost both feet to the disease.

"His feet and heart bothered him, and Tim's kidneys and bladder bother him," she said.

Her son has had diabetes since he was three years old.

He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997.

"It's one of the aggravatinest, hatefulest, diseases I know of," his mother said.

MS attacks the muscles, nerves and brain. At first, she said, the doctors thought he had a stroke, because his right side was paralyzed.

Doctors in Goldsboro, Greenville, Mount Olive, Chapel Hill and Duke have tried various drugs. But two weeks ago, his mother said, they told the family there was nothing else they could do.

Donna doesn't leave her husband alone for a minute.

"About a month ago, we walked out to the yard. We couldn't have been out there more than 10 minutes. When we came back in, he had fallen out of his chair," she said. "Anything that happens scares us to death."

He had been doing fine when they married in 2001.

"He could outrun me with a shopping cart," she said. "He was cutting grass in the summer, doing yard work."

But in April 2006, she got a phone call at work from her mother-in-law at the doctor's office.

He was at Wayne Memorial Hospital for two weeks.

They have visited the emergency room so many times that now the nurses and doctors know them by their first names.

His blood sugar is checked six times a day. He has been stuck so many times his fingers look like pin cushions.

"Which one?" the nurse asks.

"Go for it," he always says.

Tim Gautier is not a complainer, his mother said.

"I'm 64. I've lived a good life," she said. "I'd be glad to give him a part of me. He's the only thing I've got. When I was a little girl, I looked at that Jerry Lewis telethon and prayed, 'Lord, don't ever let me or a loved one get that.'.... I have crying spells pretty often, but I try not to do it around him."

Tim is always calling the 700 Club on television asking to have prayer for somebody else. Since April 2006, his wife has been calling to have prayer for him.

A woman donated a 1986 van to the family through the MS Society. The Gautiers enjoyed it for a while, but it broke down at the end of May. A friend has cut the grass and, one night, stopped at the house with many bags of groceries -- even dog food for the pooch outside.

"There's still some good people out there," his mother said.

Anyone wishing to help can call 658-8820 or 658-2108.