A Face to the Ice Bucket Challenge

Mention ALS today and you think “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Ice cubes in a glass

Ice cubes in a glass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That wasn’t the case 25 years ago when the disease first entered my world.

 

In 1988, my father-in-law, Carl Rasmussen, was retired and living on a small ranch in Sand Canyon. Born and raised on a farm in Fort Collins, Colorado, he had come full circle after years in th

 

e construction business and was now enjoying life, raising Appaloosa horses, enjoying his many grandchildren and dating a nice lady. He was 68 years old.

 

That summer of ’88, Carl noticed he was having difficulty holding on to the reins of the horses he exercised each morning. Thinking it was arthritis, he would take pain meds and knead his hands to help ease the suffering. But the pain got worse and he eventually went to the doctor who performed a series of tests.

 

After ruling out several possibilities, the doctors informed Carl that he was in the early stages of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The prognosis was not good. The cause of ALS was unknown, the doctor explained, but it was painless, non-contagious and cruel. The motor function of the central nervous system is destroyed but the mind remains fully aware to the end – or like my husband likes to say “A front row seat to your own demise.”

 

All we, the family, really knew about ALS was about Lou Gehrig who at 38 years old was forced to retire from baseball because he couldn’t run anymore. But that was 1941.

 

Our journey into ALS became one of seeking information. As Carl progressed through the symptoms – not being able to walk or talk, eat or swallow, we kept asking questions and seeking relief for this man who was so kind and gentle and needed our help.

 

My husband Charlie, sister-in-law Susan and my nephew Tony, deserve a lot of credit during this period. They were there by Carl’s side as he slowly declined. Whether reading stories to him from his favorite author, Louis L’Amour, or massaging his hands and legs so they wouldn’t atrophy, Charlie, Susan and Tony never left his side.

 

Carl died in May 1989, just 8 months after receiving his initial diagnosis. As sad as it was to say goodbye, I was happy he didn’t suffer long. But I have some great memories of that period also. One in particular involved Game 1 of the World Series with the Dodgers playing the Oakland Athletics. Yup, we were there that night when the sick and injured Kirk Gibson stepped up to the plate at the bottom of the ninth as the Dodgers were trailing 4-3.

 

It is well known that many Dodger fans leave around the 7th inning. We were still there because it wasn’t easy for Carl to get around. When Gibson hit that home run, we watched the folks in the parking lot heading back into the stadium to see why we were all screaming. The Dodgers ending up winning that game and a World Series title and oh, how I loved to see the twinkle in Carl’s eye that night.

 

Through the years following Carl’s death, my husband’s family has spent a lot of time and money working with the ALS Association as they try to find a cure. It is a strange, horrible and unknown disease.

 

Ice Bucket Challenges have been around for years and usually it is to raise money for one charity or another. According to Wikipedia, social media put the face of ALS on the ice bucket when the Golf Channel Morning show televised and performed a live on-air challenge in June. Golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his cousin, whose husband had ALS. The cousin, Jeanette Senerchia of Pelham, NY, put her video on Facebook and the connection and challenges began.

 

I do worry that the seriousness of the disease is being overshadowed by the silliness of the bucket challenge but I’m happy to hear the ALS Association has received millions for research because of this Ice Bucket Challenge.

 

If ALS is to have a face, we now have millions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “A Face to the Ice Bucket Challenge”

  1. Charlie Rasmussen Says:

    Well done Babe….Dad would have proud of you

  2. Joanne Says:

    Your words just put everything into perspectve and you feel the love and Carl’s strength. Hugs, Joanne

  3. Kelli Ingber Says:

    Jason and I were talking about that last night that the “Challenge” is over powering the donations, but if awareness gets out and donations come in it is all a good thing. Thanks for sharing your writing and personal experiences. I always have enjoyed reading your pieces of work. 🙂

  4. Britt Brasseal Says:

    You just took me on a walk back to a sad time, but Carl’s personality overshadows the ugliness of the disease he endured. Great piece.

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