ALS is a disease that is close to me because it took the life of my grandpa back in 2003. This disease makes people deteriorate so quickly that most die within 2-5 years. They go from walking around enjoying life, to sitting in a wheel chair and require help with the simplest of things.
When I was about 6 or so, my grandparents would often come over and help my mother clean our house and I would sometimes help. When I did help it would always be with my grandpa. We had a special connection that is hard to explain. We were both reserved and quiet. We did things that were asked of us. After cleaning usually we would have McDonalds or something of the sort and he would ALWAYS get the fish filet sandwich. He was a simple man and I idolized him. I loved it when people told my parents that I looked just like him; because he meant so much to me.
A few years later, my grandpa was diagnosed with ALS. I wasn’t aware at the young age of 10 how the disease would affect him but I surely noticed as time went on. Soon it was now my mother and I going over to my grandparent’s house to help my grandpa with everything. He just wasn’t the same and it was no fault of his. I remember helping him with exercises and trying to lift his spirits just with my presence. Then, came a moment that I will never forget. It had been raining for a while and my grandparent’s house was prone to flooding in the basement so my mother and I went over to help. The water vacuum was in the basement and my grandma was trying to clean up the mess herself, but the machine was malfunctioning or a component was missing from it and she could not get it to work. My grandpa knew where everything was and was a handy man. He knew how to fix stuff and what was needed for everything. My grandma and mother tried to figure out what was missing by asking him, but by this time his disease had made him unable to talk and he could only make brief noises. With a mess in the basement my grandma was obviously frustrated that she couldn’t understand him. Both my grandma and mother went downstairs to try to fix the vacuum. I looked at my grandpa and I knew he was going to try to tell me. He mouthed something but I couldn’t understand so I started guessing. With each wrong guess I saw the struggle and utter disappointment in his eyes. He knew he couldn’t just tell me where the missing part was. I kept guessing and then suddenly I said the magic word “furnace” and just by his eyes I knew that I was right. That is the type of bond we had. Shortly after this my grandpa died. He passed away in his sleep and I had lost a friend.
I am rowing across the Atlantic for my grandpa, Jon Blais, and others stricken with ALS. I have seen the deterioration that occurs and it is sickening. Currently there is no cure for ALS; only ways to manage it. It is a death sentence and the sharp decline of the individual’s health is debilitating for themselves and their family. I will always remember my grandpa and the special relationship I had with him. I told myself one day that I would look to make a difference for others with ALS and I can think of no better way than rowing the Atlantic.