"Til Death Do Us Part." Everybody knows the line, but Dave and Renee Underwood are learning what that marriage vow really means.
This was the drive Dave made for years as General Manager of Channel 13. He was so well respected in the community that across town at NewsChannel 11, a competing station, we profiled him in a special segment called "One Who Makes a Difference. Even back then, Dave gave all the credit to his wife, Renee.
“I really need to thank my wife, Renee, for getting me into this”, Dave said in that story about his work as a community volunteer.
Today, Renee is still by Dave's side, and he is still giving her the credit for everything good in his life.
Tearfully, he says, “She's my best friend.”
Dave is nearing the final stages of Huntington's Disease.
It is getting more and more difficult to speak, but Dave says this about his condition. "It hurts to have people take care of you when you are used to doing it yourself. All the years in TV running TV stations and all the stuff I did at KLBK and FOX. It hurts and you miss being around them."
For many years, Dave lived a charmed life with Renee and the boys in a 2 story home in an affluent Lubbock neighborhood...which was also the boy scout hangout when he was troop leader.
Today, at age 49, he is in a nursing home, with others who are much older, but perhaps sharper.
"It’s a terrible disease. Not only do you lose your motor function, your coordination and walking ability, but you also lose quite a bit of your thinking capability and a lot of the thinking capabilities look like psychosis," says Dr. Dihenia. “It's one thing to become weak, but another not to have the same personality.”
Another terrible side of Huntington's, it's genetic. Dave and Renee can see now that his mother had it first, but much later in life.Their greatest concern today is… what will happen to their two boys?
In Dr. Dihenia's lab, they can test for Huntington's Disease.
But most people don't want to know because if it turns out you are a carrier, it isn't a question of... will you get the disease.. but when? IN FACT, this gene is so specific, it can reveal approximately what age you'll come down with symptoms... and how long you'll suffer.
It is such a grim diagnosis, You might ask why would the Underwoods want to tell this story...particularly since there is no cure?
2 reasons: First, because ignorance can make a difficult situation even worse.
Dr. Dihenia explains, "They can look like a person who has been drinking excessively." Renee adds that some people think Dave is drunk. Others want to know if he has a mental illness. Overall, she says it is surprising how rude people can be when they see someone with this debilitating illness.
The second reason is simple. This is a love story. More than anything, Renee wants her boys to remember that.
"You take the vows and you think they know what they mean,” she says. “In sickness and in health. for better or for worse are huge vows and you don't realize that until you live through 28 years of marriage, partly in a situation like this.”
With her hand on Dave’s arm and a smile on her face, Renee closes with this thought, “ I told my boys I don't care what you learn from me as long as you learn one thing… that you honor your commitments."
What a lesson for us all.
|NewsChannel 11 Special Reports|