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paddock evacuator Derek Ingram ALS

Remembering Derek Ingram

By Eric Knight on September, 13 2023
Eric Knight

Last night, I got word that we lost our dear friend, coworker, and brother to ALS. And while we all knew this day was coming, it is incredibly difficult to write this. Perhaps in my mind, we were all holding out a glimmer of hope that ALS would be cured in time to save Derek and bring him back. But it was not to be.


Derek leaves behind his loving and unbelievably-devoted wife, Amber, along with three young children: Beau, Kate and Elle. Derek was more than just a friend and colleague, and he's someone we will never forget.

Who was Derek Ingram?

Derek Ingram Family-1

I first met Derek in 2012. Derek was the lead designer (and pretty much everything else) for the recently-formed Paddock Evacuator Company, in Rock Hill, SC. Derek did everything from CAD drawings and airflow calculations to pricing sheets, material sourcing, manufacturer relations, and graphic design.

It's safe to say Derek was the man behind the Paddock Evacuator brand. He was Paddock Evacuator in the early days. Now, to be fair, it takes a team. In the early days the team included Derek's father, Dennis, and the two of them traveled around installing portable Evacuator systems to prove concept. The original design came from Don Baker, who then introduced it to Jeff Gaeckle, and the business was conceived in about 2009. But it was Derek who was the first hire. It was Derek who took the technology to the next level.

Without Derek, there was no company. The technology may not have evolved into what is has become today–the standard of care for indoor pools. While Don and the team created the technology, Derek perfected it. Derek's calculations, CAD designs and checklists made an otherwise complex "we-got-lucky-it-worked" system into a reliable system that worked every time.

What started as just a job for Derek turned into a vocation. Not a swimmer himself, Derek had no personal connection to the indoor air quality problem like Jeff and I did. And yet, Derek's personal commitment to helping swimmers who he had never met was just as strong as mine was. His commitment to proving the technology and designing it to such meticulous detail and quality that mechanical engineers would take our little startup company was astounding. Derek made the Evacuator® commercially viable.

That was our shared mission: fix indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and help new facilities prevent IAQ problems from starting.

Work/Life balance

While I split off to work in other areas of the industry, Derek stayed the course and continued doing good work. But our common mission never fell apart. It was one of many things Derek and I kept in common throughout our relationship.

Fixing indoor pool air is still the mission today, and why Chloramine Consulting exists.

He was the architect of the technology that is integral to solving the IAQ problem: source-capture exhaust. Without Derek, far less swimming pools would have clean air to breathe...and thanks to Derek, hundreds do. That translates to tens of thousands of swimmers who are breathing healthier air in pools. Without Derek, they might still be coughing and using inhalers.

When Derek was home, he was fully present for his family. He was the ultimate husband and father.

When Derek was at church, he was actively involved in outreach and raising his children to be devout Christians like he and Amber are.

When he was at work, he was fully committed to fixing air quality for swimmers and coaches he had never met.

In all aspects of life, Derek Ingram was a devoted servant.

Health issues

I will never forget a specific day in 2014. I came into the office that we shared, and Derek did not look well. He had been struggling with Crohn's disease, which had worsened into ulcers. I knew this, because we had lunch together every work day for 2 years, and Derek was a creature of habit. Suddenly he wasn't able to eat his normal favorites because of the pain.

But this day was different. He looked Jaundiced, with yellow eyes. He said he was fine, but when Denise in our office saw him, she said "Derek I'm taking you to the hospital right now." He refused. She calmly responded "I wasn't asking." And off they went, despite Derek's trademark stubborn attitude.

After months of testing and speculating, doctors finally recognized what the issue was: Derek had a rare form of liver disease, and his liver was failing. It was not alcohol related whatsoever, nor was it genetic. Doctors were puzzled...but it was obvious he was going to die if he did not get a new liver.

Fast forward four years...I'll leave out the ugly details of all of his health problems and immense pain in those years. Derek was suffering and dying in slow motion. It was agonizing for him and everyone around him, and there seemed to be nothing anyone could do about it, except wait for him to be "the sickest person in the Carolinas" so he could be number one on the liver donor recipient list.  I remember seeing him in the hospital just days before he either received a successful liver transplant, or died. He was jaundiced, as skinny as a skeleton, and I almost did not recognize him. 

Derek before liver transplant

Thankfully, Derek still had his trademark sarcastic sense of humor, so I was able to confirm it was indeed Derek, and I was in the correct hospital room. Praise the Lord, two days later, he was blessed with a new liver. 

And after his successful surgery, he stood on his own two feet again, and rang the bell, thanking his liver donor. Amidst the donor's family's tragedy, Derek's life was saved.

Throughout these trials, Derek and Amber never lost faith. And when he was blessed with a renewed lease on life, he went out and lived. Derek not only got back to work, but he continued to build his family, welcoming two new daughters, Kate and Elle in the next few years.

ALS in 2021

Tragically, Derek's health trials and tribulations were far from over. He began noticing difficulty in closing his baseball glove when playing catch with his son Beau. He was losing feeling in his fingers and toes, and for some reason he just wasn't moving right. Just a few days after his third child (Elle) was born, after a battery of tests to rule out other possible conditions (like a stroke), Derek and Amber received the worst news of their lives. Derek was diagnosed with ALS.

Once again, he and Amber never lost faith. Amber took on the unfathomable burden of raising three young kids, teaching in school, and being Derek's primary caregiver. They both devoted their time to their kids, with lots of photos and memories while Derek was still mobile. Here's Derek shortly after diagnosis:

Screen Shot 2023-09-13 at 1.12.40 PM

Out of respect for Derek and his family, I'll leave this as the most recent photo, with a smile on his face. Pure joy, despite him knowing his time left was short.

Every time I visited their house, he had kids climbing on him, even when he could not hug them back. And all the while, trapped in his failing body, Derek's mind never left. He was in there. Each time I'd go visit with him, we'd laugh about old stories and inside jokes.

I last saw Derek three weeks ago. We were there with his nurse and his father, Dennis. He was speaking through a computer that tracked his eyes as he typed words. And yet, his humor remained intact while he was otherwise paralyzed.

It is hard to describe how heartbreaking it is to see ALS in person. Derek was still in there...and he was still the same close friend he was a decade earlier. I had never understood the gravity of this damned disease because I had never witnessed it first-hand. Now I have.

The last 9 years of Derek's life were marred with misery and pain, offset by immeasurable joy and happiness with his family and friends. We should all be so lucky as to have the support around us that Derek has had. He was a stand-up guy and will be forever missed. He is finally free.



I love you and your family. On the work front, you deserve recognition for all your many contributions to the aquatics industry. Know that your work mattered. It has permanently changed the aquatics industry for the better. Swimmers, lifeguards and coaches who have never known your name will continue to breathe easier in pools, and it's because of you, your mind, your effort, and your devotion to helping them. Thank you for everything. I will continue our shared mission. You have my word.



Please consider contributing to the Ingram family to help them take on their astronomical medical bills. Thankfully, much of this was covered by health insurance, but a surprising amount of treatment was not. Now that Derek is gone, the pain is real. But the healing process can now begin. Every bit helps chip away at their medical bills. Thank you.

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