My ALS story: Rodney Frisard
While amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is often associated with weakness in the muscles, the spirit of Rodney Frisard is anything but weak.
While pursuing a computer science degree at Louisiana Tech University in 1967, Rodney returned home to New Orleans and volunteered for the draft. After serving a short tour in Vietnam, Rodney returned home, was discharged from the Army and later completed his college education. In 1980, Rodney started a computer consulting company, which remains successful to this day.
But in June 2011, while chasing his grandson, Rodney found himself on the ground after falling. “I just figured it was my age and didn’t think any more about it,” he says.
But after that point, friends began to notice that Rodney’s foot dragged when he walked. While several doctors ordered tests that showed nothing out of the ordinary, Rodney and his wife, Cindy, began questioning the possibility of an ALS diagnosis. “Cindy and I resolved that it was ALS and starting looking into organizations that focused on ALS,” Rodney says.
After contacting the ALS Association in Baton Rouge, a representative recommended that, because of his veteran status, Rodney contact Paralyzed Veterans of America. “It wasn’t long before I was being seen at the spinal cord clinic and verified that I had ALS,” Rodney says. “The support and help I have received from Paralyzed Veterans and the Veterans Administration is beyond my belief.”
Rodney’s ALS is still in his legs, so having a powered wheelchair has helped immensely in helping him move around. But more than anything, the love and support of his wife is what gets him through. “My road with ALS is a great deal easier because my wife is my caregiver and the love of my life,” he says.
Rodney and Cindy attend three different support groups in and around New Orleans and have made several friends facing the same sets of challenges. And despite those challenges, Rodney remains positive and takes heart in each day. “I am 66 years old and plan to live every day as if it was my last because one day I will be right,” he says. “I know this is terminal, but I am alive today and I plan to live this day!”
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.