December 6, 2018
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator
Kimberly Cannon, Graduate Assistant
Hitting Curveballs: Student Overcomes Unique Challenges
VALDOSTA — While many young adults peruse a bookstore for course-required textbooks or for some options for casual reading, a Valdosta State University freshman from Tampa, Florida, can find his name among those shelves.
Eighteen-year-old Remington Walls’ autobiographical book, “Home Plate: A True Story or Resilience,” co-authored by his mother Stephanie Walls, was released in November 2018 by Now SC Press.
From the book’s title, it’s clear that baseball plays a pivotal role in this story, but the phrase “Home Plate” represents so much more in Walls’ life.
His story goes like this:
The same breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, a “no, thanks” to every bite of food offered, an empty plate served at every restaurant and every family dinner — that’s Walls’ peculiar but necessary diet.
Eight fluid ounces of a hypoallergenic, nutritional liquid consumed 15 to 20 times a day is his equivalent to three square meals. Those juice box “meals” have been what Walls has consumed every day for more than a decade.
At 3 years old, after facing constant health issues such as stomach pain and vomiting, Walls was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), a chronic inflammatory disease in which eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, build up in the esophagus causing damage or inflammation. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, EoE affects one to four out of every 10,000 people in the United States.
The disease has no cure and treatments vary based on the individual. For some, elimination of certain food allergens may be enough, but for Walls, more extreme measures were necessary. He was completely taken off food at 4 years old.
Due to this foodless diet, his sole source of nutrition is Neocate Splash, a nutritionally complete amino acid-based formula used for the dietary management of individuals with conditions such as EoE. Walls drinks 120 to 160 fluid ounces of Neocate Splash a day.
The price for his unique diet is quite steep, costing around $2,000 a month. Insurance covered this cost for the majority of Walls’ life, but then in early 2017 he and his family received news that this bill was about to be on their own plate.
This new burden was hard to swallow for the Walls family.
“It’s $26,000 a year, and we’re just an average middle class family … I didn’t know how we could afford a little over $2,000 a month … we were really stressed and that was really trying,” Walls said.
Through family support and speaking up for change, Walls has persevered.
He and his family became involved with the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders (APFED), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those with eosinophilic disorders. Through his affiliation with this group, Walls was invited to Washington, D.C., to speak at a congressional briefing to share his story and emphasize the importance of the Medical Nutrition Equity Act, legislation introduced to Congress on May 22, 2017, that would mandate that all private health insurance plans and all federal health programs provide coverage for medically necessary food, according to APFED.
The bill is still being referred to committees and subcommittees within Congress and has yet to be passed or rejected.
As legislative matters continue to unfold, Walls said he couldn’t speak much about the situation other than he has still been able to get the nutrition he needs.
While his diet is rare and not many freshmen can say they’ve been out pursuing legislative efforts, Walls said he is living “a regular college life” as an exercise physiology major at VSU.
Walls has not allowed his disease to establish itself as the center of his life.
His dedication to baseball keeps him busy. When he’s not in class, he spends the bulk of his time training or practicing with the VSU baseball team.
His mornings start bright and early with a 6 a.m. athletic training session. He attends his core classes as part of his first semester, and then he attends practice with the VSU baseball team from 1 p.m. to around 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Walls moves through his life just as his book implies — with resilience.
With all of his goals and accomplishments — writing a book, pushing for legislation for medical nutrition equity, pursuing a four-year degree — Walls' plate is actually full.ON THE WEB:
Visit nowscpress.com/product-page/homeplate for more information on Walls’ book.