Tom’s Bio

My name is Tom Mecke.   I’m not usually one to talk about myself but several friends have told me that my story needs to be told to help and inspire others. I hope what I write here will despite my weak writing skills.

Anyway, here it goes… I was born in early 1960, the sixth of seven children. A typical Catholic family of the time it seems. In my younger years, the four boys shared a room with two sets of bunk beds and the three girls in the other bedroom. As with most large families we had to share and not to expect any special privileges.

We all started in Catholic school at our church doing fairly well. Five of my siblings graduated from eighth grade from the parish school. I attended through third grade and then went to public school through high school due to special needs. School was easy and enjoyable for me and I ranked 60 out of about 900 in my high school class.

Tom 1983

Tom 1983

All through school I had planned to go to college and get an engineering degree. My father had an electrical engineering degree and worked for the electric utility in our city and I had always been interested in anything electric or electronic. Also, my brothers had strong mechanical skills and pursued mechanical engineering degrees at Texas A&M University. I followed them there and went for my electrical engineering degree. I graduated in May 1983 with about a 2.9 grade point average while enjoying college life. Above is my senior picture from Texas A&M University (BSEE ’83).

The summer after high school my mother ran into the mother of my younger brother’s classmate whose husband was an executive at Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. (became SBC, and now AT&T). In their conversation, my mother mentioned that she really wished she could find me a summer job. The friend suggested I apply at the Telephone Co. which I did and that opened a door to my career. I worked that summer and every summer while attending Texas A&M.

I started as a full time employee in July 1983 most of the time working with computers supporting the network engineering functions. The first years I was an equipment engineering budgeting and ordering network operation support system computers which were mostly DEC PDP 11/70 minicomputers about as powerful as the timer in my current microwave. I also provided some of the first PCs purchased by the company.

After a few years, I moved into a group that was to “mechanize” or create a computer environment to perform the network engineering work that was a completely manual paperwork process to this point. I enjoyed trying out new PCs and software. We began developing a minicomputer running Unix as base for the engineering system.

The system was developed and expanded. I became a full time system and network administrator over about 200 computer terminals, several pre-Windows PCs and networked printers.

I retired in 1996 with 15 years of service.

A fairly average life you might say.  We should use the talents we have to overcome our obstacles.  I owe an attitude that nothing is impossible to my upbringing and sheer determination.

Tom 3/2002

Tom 3/2002

I mentioned “special-needs”… In 1966, my first grade teacher brought to my parents’ attention that I seem to be having more trouble getting around than the other kids. She suggested we have the doctor check me out. My parents had just thought I was a little more clumsy than the rest but it wasn’t a major concern. Our family doctor referred me to a neurologist. After some observations and testing which included an electromyogram, I was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

It was a surprise to the family. My parents had never even heard of muscular dystrophy. And when the doctor said that it affects mostly boys and that if one son has it any other sons could have the disease also. Having four sons, they were horrified at the thought as you could imagine.

As it turned out, I was the only affected son. One of my sisters had an elevated CPK test but has never had a DNA test. Anyway, I have 7 nephews and 10 nieces that are unaffected physically by muscular dystrophy.

Early on, it seems, my parents decided that I was to get minimal special treatment with respect to my siblings and that I should try to do as much as I could for myself for as long as I could.

Early years, the adventure begins

Here are a few video clips that I have taken from our old home movies. The trained eye may recognize some of the early signs of DMD. Diagnosis currently is much earlier than it was in the mid-60s.

YouTube Preview Image
Tommy walking, age 1
YouTube Preview Image
Tommy running, age 3

 

As I mentioned above, I was diagnosed at age 6. The first diagnosis is made by a neurologist which we were referred to by her family doctor. The neurologist then referred us to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and their clinic. At that age I was not

1970 MDA Poster Boy

1970 MDA Poster Boy

sure what was happening and I think it was a little fascinated with all the doctors and attention. I vividly remember the electromyogram in a room in the basement of  Baptist Hospital and the hospital smell. Maybe because they were sticking long thin needles into my calf muscles and looking at a scope. Kind of like a mad scientist movie but I guess this confirmed their diagnosis.

My progression from this point in the next few years involved “short leg braces” or AFOs as they call them now when I began tripping over my own feet. When I could no longer hold my knees straight to stand I moved to long leg braces that locked at my knee. And finally I was moving too slowly so I began using a wheelchair at school at age 10. This quickly changed to using a wheelchair most of the time.

 

 

 

Teen Years

I developed an interest in electronics and gadgets that were eventually lead to getting my electrical engineering degree.Tom'sworkbench/desk

 

more to come…