For every person who has had a bucket of ice water thrust over his or her head lately, I want to say “thank you.”
Every chunk of ice and every drop of cold water is helping to raise money to combat one of the most horrible diseases.
I know I join all the others who have lost loved ones to ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The money that is rolling in should help to find a cure.
I lost a daughter when Carol Hagerty Werner died of ALS on Dec. 11, 2011. Her husband, Curt, lost his wife. Curtis, Anna and Mariah lost their mother.
This past week, there were ice bucket dumpings in their little school at Merino, Colo. The grandchildren out there know they are not the only ones who have lost a loved one to ALS.
There were ice bucket brigades all over town - at Calvary Lutheran Church, the Grand Forks Herald, UND, Pi Beta Phi sorority. On and on and on. The ice-water war against ALS goes on in viral proportions on the Internet.
The whole wild ice-bucket movement sweeping the nation brings rays of hope. Some day there will be a cure. There will be an answer to this cruel disease that moves relentlessly. Like a candle, it melts your nerves and leaves your body like a pile of wax.
Carol was among the first to get vaccine for polio when she started school here in Grand Forks back in 1960. That was the beginning of the end for polio. And there is hope with help of the bucket brigades that the mysterious disease of ALS will be conquered.
ALS is most widely known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It affects more than 30,000 people in the United States with new cases diagnosed every day. The disease affects motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Muscles waste away.
Carol first noticed the weakness when she was here in Grand Forks about five years ago. She couldn’t get the bikes back on top of her car for the drive back to Colorado.
One thing led to another. The diagnosis of ALS came in the spring of 2010. There was help from the ALS Association in Colorado - the loan of a chair lift, a wheel chair. Friends from years gone by showed up to help.
Still, she was losing the battle. But she never gave up - even though she needed a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube for nutrition.
The day before she died, she composed a farewell letter to her family with a device from the ALS Association called DynaVox. By blinking, she could get letters up on a screen to form words.
It was slow. It was frustrating.
She had come to the conclusion God granted her time to prepare herself and her family for death. And it was time for her to set them free.
I stood with others around her hospital bed in the sun room at their cattle ranch when she died.
Eventually a hospice attendant on Dec. 11, 2011, solemnly pronounced, “Time of death: 12:21.”