The former chef and proprietor of Amy Ruth’s, Carl Redding, has experienced the heights of success and depths of challenges. But while most of those ebbs and flows pertained to business matters, he now faces one of his greatest personal trials after a diabetes-related medical emergency led to the amputation of his leg and the possibility of long-term homelessness.
The founder of Harlem’s legendary soul food restaurant, Amy Ruth’s (under new management since 2007), and former associate and employee of the Rev. Al Sharpton shared with us details on what led to his condition, his emotional state, and his hopes for the future.
Please walk us through your medical history so we can understand how things came to this point.
I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2014. I believe my diabetes was caused by me being the gregarious chef that I am. I was eating everything I wanted for so long that it finally took its toll. I was given oral medication and told to watch what I eat. I maintained everything they told me to do. I walked everywhere, stopped drinking soda and fruit juices, increased my water intake, and cooked healthier meals. When I started the diabetes journey my A1C level was a 12.3 and it is presently at an eight. The doctors want it down to a seven. So to go from 12 to eight, I thought I was doing the right things these past few years. But I have neuropathy and with this condition, you become numb and always have to make sure you don’t have a cut on your feet that can become infected. I got cut on my foot, which then became infected with gangrene. At the hospital, the doctor told me that the infection was spreading in my system. He told me I had to amputate my leg. Usually, doctors give patients a day to make a decision regarding amputation. In my case, he couldn’t give me an hour because my organs were starting to shut down and I had to go into emergency surgery. I was minutes away from losing my life. So this past March I had the surgery.
With not even a day to process the decision of amputation, it must have been an emotional rollercoaster.
It was a devastating blow. But I had to make a life or death decision. I am here today and looking forward to this new life of spreading the word of how diabetes can destroy, kill, and how we need to follow healthier lifestyles. Diabetes is killing so many people and I never thought it destroyed lives to this extent. Still, I feel good because I have a strong faith in God. I don’t know anything else but to have an upbeat or cheerful outlook with this situation. Should I be mad? I’m alive and I thank God I’m alive.
One of the ways diabetes can destroy lives is by putting a financial burden on someone when a medical crisis takes place. What is your financial situation now as a result of the surgery?
I was living comfortably in an apartment in Atlanta before the surgery. Life as I knew it can no longer exist. I have to find a new living environment conducive to my new condition. I need something that is wheelchair accessible and I have not found that place. So I am homeless right now as a result of this condition. I’m not a rich person or purported to be and I need help for my new lifestyle. I have to start from scratch once I receive my prosthetic leg and leave the rehab facility.
You know many influential people within various industries. Have you been receiving support from your circle of family and friends?
I have a strong support system and a lot of people have come to help me. A media contact of mine knew of my past service to Reverend Sharpton and asked if he called me. He has not contacted me but he did have a surrogate call me to see what they can do to help. But I have not talked to him personally. Hopefully, this story will reach more people. I welcome help from anybody.
You’ve always been very driven in your career. Have you given any thought as to what your career plans will be in the near future?
I have to get the word out and start to change the narrative of how soul food is presented. How can we eat a healthier diet to combat this disease together? I have some people that want me to do a food truck but I have not given that much thought. I am in the process now of writing my first cookbook based on a healthier diet for people, especially African Americans. I have to change the narrative and approach around soul food so that it’s prepared healthier.
To follow Chef Redding’s journey toward recovery please click here.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.