By Tracy Hudson-Frantzis
We were a young family. He was 47. I was 31 and four months pregnant with three other girls at home, Jessica who was 10, Miranda age 6, and Karly, age 2. We were excitedly preparing for the arrival of another child when we heard the news.
My name is Tracy, and I lost my husband Joe to Lou Gehrig’s Disease 14 years ago. When he was diagnosed, we were told he had two to five years to live with the disease. Instead, he lived just 13 short months. It has been over a decade, but I remember every day of those months.
Without the help of The ALS association, I do not know how I would have ever survived. At the time of Joe’s diagnosis, we had no health or life insurance. Being hit by such a devastating blow was overwhelming, and we had to be strong for our children. The ALS Association welcomed us with open arms and treated my husband at their clinic regularly. The staff became an extended part of our family.
The chapter also provided all of the equipment he needed to function as ALS attacked his body. He needed transfer boards, a wheelchair and then a power chair, a portable potty, hoyer lift, and hand controls in our van so that he could drive to the hospital while I delivered our baby. The list grew and grew, but the Greater Philadelphia Chapter was there at every step. They even provided for a nurse to come to the house to get him ready in the morning and feed him breakfast while I got the kids ready for school. This may seem extensive, and it is, but it is still just a small glimpse of what they were able to help us with at such a difficult time. Knowing that the Chapter staff was there for us was just priceless and I can never forget it.
Each year, there is a Walk to Defeat ALS in Ocean City, New Jersey. Joe and I and our family attended the year he was diagnosed. The walk was in September and I was due to deliver our baby on October 2nd.
We had high hopes for that walk. Not just to raise money that year, but to build year after year. It was a great event, but, sadly, it was the only one my husband was able to attend.
I moved to Florida shortly after Joe’s death in 2003. Even though I moved far away, ALS has always been close to my heart and mind. Joe’s family has continued the tradition each and every year. This year will be fifteen years since we started that walk and so my girls and I will return to Walk to Defeat ALS alongside the family on the team we created so long ago on Saturday, September 16.
Please join us. We’ll be together as part of Joe’s Wings, raising spirits and raising money to continue the mission of The ALS Association and continue Joe’s memory. It is a homecoming for me and I cannot wait to be there once again.