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A typical Saturday night for George Rummelhart involved playing his trumpet in the Ratskeller of a German restaurant in the Iowa Amana Colonies with his polka band. One night in 1990 was very typical, except at some point he could no longer hold his horn up to his mouth. He later said it was the strangest thing: he felt no pain, but it was if he couldn’t get his arms to do what he wanted.
Over the next months this weakness would come and go for my dad. When it became more frequent, he went to the doctor. Months later, in March of 1991, Dad called me at my work at Deloitte Haskins & Sells in Chicago to tell me he had finally been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also commonly known as Lou Gherig’s Disease). A degenerative nerve disease with no cure, various muscles in his body would no longer receive information from his brain that they should operate, and he would most likely die in 2-3 years when muscles needed for respiration would no longer get the message.
With my head spinning and heart pounding, in the middle of tax busy-season, I went crying to my manager Nancy, who happened to live in Skokie, Illinois and know of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. Within a week I was sitting in the Foundation office, learning about what was happening and what was to come. Although they could not provide our family direct support in the form of medical equipment and patient visits as they do with area families, I leaned on the foundation for knowledge and support over the next 2.5 years of my dad’s life.
On September 30, 1993, a sunny, autumn morning, I woke up and went to the kitchen to prepare Dad’s liquid nourishment, to be injected into his gastrointestinal tube since he could no longer swallow. When I took it to his room, I realized that his respiratory muscles had lost their signal. I woke up Mom and told her something was happening. She and I sat with Dad as he left this world.
In addition to being a self-made professional musician, George Rummelhart was an enthusiastic athlete in softball and volleyball, in which he competed well into his 50’s. It is ironic to me that ALS took his arms and almost nothing else until it took his breath. If you knew my dad at all, you know how cruel this was to him. But, there is hope through caring, and the Les Turner ALS Foundation cares.
Please consider a donation to help fund research into this still incurable disease. There are many more stories like Dad’s. His is just the one I lived through.
Jodi (Rummelhart) Baltimore
The money raised through the Walk helps people currently living with ALS (PALS) and their families through the Foundation’s Home and Community Service and grant programs. It also supports the Les Turner ALS Research and Patient Center at Northwestern Medicine where PALS are seen by a multi-disciplinary clinical staff at the Lois Insolia ALS Clinic, ensuring no part of their disease goes unseen and untreated. The Center also supports three full functioning research laboratories, each one providing hope of a future without ALS.
Join me as I Walk to end ALS.
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