Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ben Wilson: The Man, HImself

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for Ben and other type-1 diabetics please click HERE

Then click on: "donate to this event."  Then click on "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Then click your heels three times and call for Aunty Em.

The photographer himself.

The Viall family has known Ben Wilson for many years. 

And the Viall family is duly impressed.

If you live in Glendale, Ohio you've seen Ben around, since he moved her when he was a young boy.  As far as anyone we know knows, Ben has always been a kind-hearted, inquisitive, creative fellow ever when little.

Ben is now living in Colorado (and living with diabetes), attending the University of Colorado at Denver and working on a degree in film.  He has a couple of short pieces on YouTube if you search:  Twinkle Fitz.  It's a whimsical nickname, which is what Ben is like, himself. 

Check out his work now and you'll be able to say, "I knew him before he was famous."

Ben has been diabetic half of his life, diagnosed just before Christmas in 1997.  His mother, Robyn Carey, was in China with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (she did publicity; she's not a musician) when Ben's symptoms first stared to manifest.  By the time she got home, young Mr. Wilson had headed downtown to play Rudolph in a Christmas play and when she saw him he was already in costume and she couldn't tell how much weight he had lost.  He explained that he was constantly hungry.  So:  she gave him a Payday.

Of course, when you're a diabetic, and people don't yet know it, that doesn't help.

That was on the weekend; and by Monday, Ben had to come to her and say, "Mom, I can't even pick up my bookbag."  Now she was sure something was wrong and a trip to Childrens Hospital confirmed it.  Ben was the first type-1 diabetic in the family.

Ben's story is a little scary at times--and this is why we need to be working to find a cure, and why JDRF is such a great cause.  When he was a teen, he didn't always take care of himself, so his mom was constantly worrying.  The day he went to get his permanent driver's license was typical of the added problems diabetics face.  Ben had already taken the test for his temporary permit.  But where the box said:  Do you have any handicaps? he marked "no."

He remembered them saying at the hospital he could do anything he wanted in life.  So he figured, rightly, OK, I'm fine.  I don't have a handicap.

Now, on his permanent license application the question was worded differently and he told the DMV people he had type-1 diabetes.  Well then:  you can't get your license.  You have to have a letter from your doctor first, confirming that you are healthy enough to drive.

For a young man, already unhappy about having to deal with counting carbs, carrying supplies, sticking himself with needles, and all the other difficulties that go with a lifelong disease, this was like adding insult to daily injury. 

It's one of the few times you'd probably see Ben mad.

Ben graduated from Princeton High School and went on to Ohio University but still wasn't sure what he wanted to do, so he dropped out.  His story gets scary after he leaves college.  Now he's not on his mom or dad's health insurance and he isn't making tons of money.  So he lets his daily care slide.  He can't tell you what his a1c counts were.  He doesn't know.  He had tingling in his feet and circulation problems.  He didn't see an endocrinologist for five years; and naturally his mom worried and worried.

Still:  this is a creative thinker young man and Ben has a lot of talents.  He was a fine swimmer at Princeton and now headed for Beaufort, South Carolina where he coached elementary kids on a swim team.  Here, his big-hearted personality (and he's a big guy, too), paid off and the kids absolutely loved him.  I talked to him at Christmas in 2009 and he was thinking about going back to school and getting a degree in education.  I told him that there was no doubt in my mind he'd be good.

It's too bad--for teaching--that he decided he had to pursue his passions:  photography and film, and that's what he's doing now.  Here are a few samples:

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