Editor's note: Don Young lived with Cronh's disease and was one of the early adopters of intravenous nutrition, which kept him alive. Young died on Jan. 6, 2017. This story originally ran in The Daily Gazette on March 29, 2005.
PORTER CORNERS — Don Young looks every bit the vigorous man he is, a man who at 64 years old regularly tosses hay bales and chops wood at his Saratoga County farm.
His ruddy complexion and energetic manner wouldn't be so remarkable, except for the fuel that keeps him going. Young gets nearly all his nutrition through an intravenous liquid diet because he has Crohn's disease, an inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal system.
Young has been on home parenteral nutrition therapy for 30 years, making him the nation's second-longest survivor on this therapy. Young, of Porter Corners, celebrated the milestone Monday with family, friends and the doctors and other medical staff who have helped him live a healthy, independent life.
They gathered for a lunch at Albany Medical Center, where Young met the doctor who first recommended he become one of the first people to receive nutritional therapy at home.
Young still eats, though rarely a full lunch or dinner. He didn't seem in any hurry to get to the buffet table Monday as he greeted well-wishers and told stories.
As an adviser to the Albany-based Oley Foundation, which helps people receiving parenteral nutrition, Young frequently counsels others. One problem he hears about is that in some states, Medicaid and private insurers will not pay for nutritional therapy at home.
Young said he sees irony in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose parents and husband have been fighting over keeping her alive with a feeding tube. Congress and President Bush intervened to allow Schiavo's parents to go to a federal judge to ask them to prolong their daughter's life.
Some of those same politicians want to cut Medicaid and make it harder to bring malpractice lawsuits, Young said. Yet Medicaid and the proceeds of a malpractice lawsuit are paying for Schiavo's care, he said.
"That's real hypocrisy. Of course, hypocrisy is the mother's milk of politics," Young said.
Young's own therapy is covered by Medicare but was previously paid for by private insurance, he said. He has nothing but praise for the care he has gotten at Albany Medical Center and from the staff of his home care agency, Coram Healthcare, who mix his nutritional solution.
The solution contains carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, with another liquid containing fats administered separately.
The liquid enters his body through an intravenous drip attached to a catheter. The drip runs for eight hours at night, while Young sleeps.
Young has a trim build at 6 feet 1 inch and 180 pounds. He can gain or lose weight by adjusting the carbohydrates in the solution.
Young said he feels much better than he did in the 11 years after he was first diagnosed with Crohn's disease. He had surgery that removed 18 feet of his small intestine. Then, he had to eat about 4,000 calories a day because his body absorbed so few nutrients.
The nutritional therapy was still a "very radical treatment" when Dr. Lyn Howard, an internist at Albany Medical Center, suggested it to him in 1975, Young said.
"I thought, 'This woman's crazy. She's out of her mind,' " Young said. But he soon agreed and became Howard's third patient on the treatment.
Howard and Young raised money to endow the position she now holds, the Howard-Young chair at Albany Medical College. The college now is looking for someone to hold the chair after Howard steps down, and continue the study of nutritional therapy.
Young is a walking example that nutritional therapy doesn't have to mean a restricted life.
His youngest son, Mark, said his father went on the therapy, known as total parenteral nutrition, when Mark was 5.
"There's not a million stories about how I had to make sacrifices because my dad was on TPN. There were none," Mark said. "It was no big deal."
Mark and another of Young's children have Crohn's, while a third does not. Both the children with Crohn's are able to eat normally.
Don Young is glad the nutritional therapy has improved his health so he can eat a little himself, without suffering.
"I have a good breakfast every morning, and I'm at Stewart's every morning for coffee," he said. "It's so natural to want to eat."