Eleven years ago, Gary Raque, senior budget analyst at LG&E and KU, experienced a rapid bout of weight loss. After a month in the hospital and a loss of 50 pounds, Raque was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract.
Although Raque now has medication to keep his condition at bay, the medicine comes with its own side effects — resulting in 10 hospitalizations, blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, two eye surgeries, renal failure, and even a small heart attack.
"I'd say I've knocked on death's door about three times over the last few years," he said.
Yet despite the tough times, Raque credits his faith with helping him get through them.
"I believe I'm here for a reason. I was presented with this disease so that I can, in some way, make a difference."
And what a difference he makes! As a regular volunteer for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding cures for Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis — Raque has spent countless hours volunteering and fundraising. In fact, he was recently awarded the Honored Hero for Louisville Award (also known as the "Golden Plunger") from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation through a nomination from patients, staff and volunteers.
"I've been involved and very dedicated to raising funds and awareness to find cures," he said. "I'm a staunch advocate for other people with these diseases, as they can be very isolating and embarrassing at best and deadly at worst."
Raque is currently assisting the organization with planning the Louisville Take Steps Walk, the largest fundraising event for the foundation, scheduled for June 9.
"The nature of this disease is that no one really feels comfortable talking about," he said. "The fact that I was diagnosed later in life, my main goal is reaching out to the young people dealing with this disease. When I look at my counterpart in Lexington, Bella, who is four years old and has feeding tubes, it breaks my heart. It also motivates me to keep walking, keep talking and keep raising money to support groundbreaking research. You know, they might not find cures in my lifetime, but it's possible that there could be cures in Bella's lifetime. I'll keep walking the walk and talking the talk as long as it takes."