Korean War veteran and career firefighter Bob Price was diagnosed with ALS in May 2009 and it took him nearly a year to accept his new limitations. There was no shortage of emotional and physical trauma along the way.
SUN LAKES, ARIZ. - Bob Price dedicated his life to helping other people as a member of the Air Force in the Korean War and a California firefighter in Ventura County.
But, since being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in May 2009, Price has had to let others take care of what would have normally been his responsibility.
Letting go wasn’t a smooth process.
“At the beginning I was scared, I was terrified of him hurting himself, because he kept trying to do things he couldn’t do,” Bob’s wife, Diane Price said.
Bob, 74, couldn’t resist trying to work on projects he had done his whole life, which caused his wife worry and resulted in several trips to the hospital.
The first spring and early summer after he was diagnosed, Bob continued to try to work on his yard – one of his favorite hobbies.
Between April and June of 2010, Bob fell on his face three times (like “lumber” Diane said), each time landing him in the hospital. He fell on pavers the first time, rocks the second and the ground the third.
Amazingly, he never sustained a broken bone or concussion from these serious falls.
But, he did have a black eye and needed stitches from the last fall.
After being released from the hospital, Bob said he made a pledge to himself that he would never fall again because of trying to do something he shouldn’t. “You live with it, you know. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Bob said.
Most days, he sits in a reclining chair in front of the television hooked up to a machine that helps him breathe. Not moving from the screen nearly all-day does have some perks.
“I know every news item in the world right now,” Bob said.
Bob started having muscle twitches in June 2007, which is one of the early symptoms of ALS. But, he didn’t exhibit enough of the markers for a doctor to diagnose him.
Bob and Diane went everywhere from the Mayo Clinic to UCLA before he was finally diagnosed in May 2009 from a doctor at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Diane said the doctor they saw knew almost immediately her husband had ALS.
“Of course it was a blow, even though we suspected. You just don’t want to hear those words,” Diane said.
The next day they went to a clinic at the hospital to learn how to live with the disease.
The Prices have continued to go to the clinic every three months since then.
It is just as difficult for Bob and Diane’s family and friends to cope with the disease as the older couple. One of their children was in denial for the longest time, and has just started to realize this disease is for real, Diane said.
Their neighbors in the gated community full of retirees have been extremely helpful, Diane said, volunteering to help the family in a variety of ways.
One of the toughest people to explain the disease to is Diane and Bob’s young granddaughter. “We’ve tried to explain to her that there are some things that you get sick and you get better and there are some things that you just don’t get better,” Diane said. “We’ve talked about heaven; it’s hard to put it into a four-year-old's context.”
Despite having to adapt to Lou Gehrig’s disease, Diane and Bob are thankful he got the disease so late, comparing specifically to Mesa Police Officer Mark Kelly who died of ALS in September.
“We have had a wonderful life together. (Bob’s) career was done, our finances were set. As awful as it is, nothing really changes where Mark Kelly, still raising his kids – it just tore us up,” Diane said. “No matter how bad things are, trust me, there’s always something worse.”