Jean Germer’s journey with ALS began when she experienced difficulties while speaking, which led her to see three different physicians who ordered various tests and brain scans. An ENT found nodules on her vocal cords and recommended surgery. In December of 2014, Mrs. Germer underwent an operation, but her voice did not return. In October of 2015, she had another surgery for the scar tissue on her vocal cords. She was suffering from other symptoms, including lethargy and weight loss. Her doctor recommended that she see a neurologist, who referred her to Dr. Simmons at Hershey. In January of 2016, Mrs. Germer was diagnosed with ALS.
ALS is a devastating diagnosis for both patients and their families. For many, a diagnosis with this prognosis can easily give way to a feeling of hopelessness, but Jean and her daughter, Stacey, found solace at Hershey’s ALS Center. Stacey describes the staff at Hershey’s ALS clinic as family. She explained that from the first day, they treated her mother as nothing less than a family member. This level of care provided much-needed reassurance for Stacey and her father, who realized that Jean was in the best hands.
Once Stacey understood what her mother was up against, she was determined to do something to show Jean how many people love and support her. Stacey asked two family members to walk with her in Hershey, and they immediately agreed. However, as Stacey explored the ALS website and browsed photos of previous walks, she decided that three people was not enough.
Stacey started a team called #Believe4Jean. She signed up as both Team Captain and as a walker. Then she began her effort to involve as many people as possible. She went through her address book and sent emails to everyone that she knew. She posted on her Facebook page and asked for people to walk to sponsor a walker or her team if they were unable to physically be there. When Stacey told her mother what she was planning, Jean was hesitant. She admitted that she did not think many family members would be able to participate in the walk. Stacey knew that both family and friends had already agreed to donate and walk, and she continued to send out daily emails and Facebook posts to encourage her team. Stacey explained that she wants her mother to feel blessed with the knowledge that she has devoted family and friends who adore her. Stacey will see the results of all of her hard work at the walk when she sees her mother’s face in response to all of the love and support she has received.
Stacey still posts on her personal Facebook page as well as a team page to motivate her team. She is astounded by the support she has received. Friends of friends who have no personal connection to Jean have sent in donations. Stacey has created bumper stickers and banners, and, with the help of Scott Shirey of Muffin Enterprises Inc., team t-shirts for walkers and supporters. With the promising success of this walk, Stacey is determined to continue to be a part of a cure for ALS. She is filled to the brim with ideas for future events and ways in which she can fundraise. Stacey wants to prevent others from watching a loved one experience the terrible effects of ALS, and with her dedication and efforts, she is well on her way to making a difference.