My ALS Story: Tim Dorsey
For Army veteran Tim Dorsey, symptoms of slurred speech and some weakness in his left hand led him to believe he had experienced anything from a stroke to carpal tunnel syndrome to an autoimmune disease.
But after several months of frustration and testing, he says, doctors diagnosed Tim with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which in 2008 was recognized by the Veterans Administration as a service-connected disease after studies showed that military veterans within the past century are nearly twice as likely to develop it as those with no military history.
Tim’s military service dates back to 1978, when he enlisted in the Army and served four years on active duty and 10 years on active Reserve. After leaving the military in 1991, he began working for the Compton Unified School District, in Compton, Calif., as a supervisor.
Shortly after his diagnosis with ALS, Paralyzed Veterans of America reached out to Tim to help with his paperwork and follow up with him on medical appointments, he says. “I don’t know what I would have done or would do without Paralyzed Veterans right now,” he says. “Paralyzed Veterans has been a Godsend to me.”
Paralyzed Veterans also has assisted Tim with paperwork in filing with the VA for additional tools to help him in his day-to-day life, such as tools and equipment to help him dress and eat, as well as occupational therapy. He says he’s also interested in modifying his car. “I’m reminded of all the equipment it takes to operate my life,” he says.
Tim is still able to walk with the assistance of a walker, though he’s beginning to lose mobility in his right hand and left foot, he says. “I’m focusing spiritually, and that helps a lot,” he says.
As far as caregivers, Tim is grateful to his partner, Tod, and caregiver, Katherine, for assisting him with dressing, getting out of the house and going to medical appointments.
Tim also is involved with the ALS Association in San Diego, and hopes to soon begin care at the ALS Clinic in San Diego, where they research medicine, nutrition and different techniques for ALS patients, he says.
Tim encourages other ALS veterans to not give up hope and to reach out to organizations like Paralyzed Veterans for support. “I would say if you have military experience, contact Paralyzed Veterans,” he says. “They are a strong, caring support system that is definitely needed for people like me.”
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.