My take on the ice bucket challenge and thoughts on three dear friends who have lost their battle to this dreaded monster

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS is a disease that attacks the nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord.  A French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, identified the disease in 1869.  As those nerves and cells are attacked, it dramatically impacts one’s muscle movement, rendering those affected with complete paralysis in the later stages of the disease. It is called Lou Gehrig’s disease after the great Yankee baseball player was diagnosed with the disease in 1939 and died from it two short years later. His farewell speech given in July of 1939 where he called himself the luckiest man alive, despite suffering from the early ravages of the disease, is considered one of the bravest and most poignant moments in all of sport. 

Unfortunately, I have seen up close and personal the utter nastiness of this disease as three friends have died from it.

Janet Rife was truly an angel on this earth. She served others like few I have known.  She was beautiful and the mother of six children.  She was taken at the early age of 54 less than two years ago due to ALS.  Her husband Richard worked with me for a number of years as my #2 man in the Novell Legal department. I remember the pain Richard felt for his companion as I saw him just a couple of weeks before Janet’s passing.  As was written of her – “From 2001 to 2004, Janet served a full-time mission with her husband as president of the Korea Daejeon Mission. In this calling, she was surrogate mother to 350 missionaries, caring for their health, showing them love, and teaching them insightful gospel lessons. She set a great example of Mormon womanhood for the missionaries and helped them develop a deep love of the scriptures.”

Dr. Greg Gordon was my neighbor and buddy.  He lived two doors down. We were the same age. We worked closely together in our church congregation. Everyone loved Greg. He had the warmest smile and one of the cheeriest dispositions I have ever seen. He was also the Father of 8. All of this made his diagnosis with ALS in 2008 so painful, particularly for his Family that he loved so much. Unfortunately, as he explained to me one day, his particular form of Lou Gehrig’s disease attacked his brain first and went downward throughout his body. He was gone in what seemed to be a flash – roughly six months.

Captain Elwin Pulsipher was the first person I knew that had Lou Gehrig’s disease. When I met him back in the late 1980’s, Elwin Pulsipher, a former war hero and military leader in Vietnam, was in the later stages of ALS. He was confined to a bed and barely had the use of his fingers. Almost completely paralyzed, the only parts of his body that he could move regularly were his eyelids. Nonetheless, his mind was still sharp. Elwin is, to this day, one of the greatest examples of pure service that I have ever witnessed. He helped change my thinking from inward to outward. This great man and former leader was all about giving with no thought of getting.

On a weekly basis, despite overwhelming odds against it, Elwin sent personal letters to ten missionaries from our church congregation who were serving around the globe. The process was difficult and painful.  It took hours for him to write each one. His family connected electrodes to his eyelids and, as he would blink, a cursor on his computer would move to each letter in the alphabet. Blink by blink, he would create each letter, then a word, and then a paragraph. I visited him monthly and listened to him share his connections with the missionaries. He sacrificed greatly to encourage and share his faith with them, and the missionaries—and I—were profoundly impacted by his service.

Of course, the ice bucket challenge has grown virally and has blessed the ALS Association magnificently. Don’t we love viral stuff?  It keeps life engaging and interesting and in this particular case the virality has helped raise over 42 million dollars in a thirty-day period exceeding the prior year’s effort during the same period by over $40 Million. Anything that can help eradicate this vicious disease is absolutely awesome in my view. Of course, the irony is that the idea of the ice bucket dump was to require those that refused the challenge to make a donation to benefit the ALS cause. We have now flipped that challenge on its ear and those who take the challenge now also give. Great outcome!  I encourage all who may read this blog to donate to the eradication of this monster. Do it today. I hope you will do so. To donate go here:

Posted in Posted in Uncategorized  |  11 Comments

11 thoughts on “My take on the ice bucket challenge and thoughts on three dear friends who have lost their battle to this dreaded monster”

  1. David,

    Thank you very much for your kind words about Janet–and for your post regarding ALS. You are a dear friend.

    Warm regards,

  2. David,

    Great blog today on ALS and the Ice Bucket challenge! Wouldn’t it be great to figure out a way to harness the ‘viral effect’ for many of these diseases? What a great cause and such a better way to solicit support than the phone call during dinner. The other organizations would do well to get creative and take a page from the ALS ice bucket challenge.

  3. David, I too had a dear friend who succumbed to this horrific disease. Gregarious and fun living, Bill Logan passed away after several years of deterioration. Another great ALS charity to give to is I became acquainted with them during my time in trying to help Bill. They figured out how to get competing universities and researchers to collaborate and synergize their work. This research also supports possible benefits for Parkinson’s and other neuromusculor diseases. Best, Bruce

  4. David,

    Thanks for your ALS blog today. As I watch my brother-in-law, Creighton Rider, suffer from this horrible disease, I’ve been inspired that so many have participated and donated. But even more impactful is to see how it has been a positive moment in his battle. Even though he knows there is no cure and that there is no stopping the continual progression of the disease through his body, he is trying all he can do to inspire others to in the words of his motto “Live ’til you die” and this past month – get wet and donate! He has really brought the Ice Bucket close to home and personal for many that didn’t know him before this, just like your three friends.

  5. David,
    Thanks for sharing. I had one of my employees that contacted the debilitating disease ALS. It was a tragedy to watch his suffering and eventual death. We did everything possible to ease his discomfort and even bought him a handicap van so that he could continue to come to work. I look forward to the cure.

    I am Karen, I was diagnosed of ALS (Lou Gherigs Disease) in 2013, the doctor told me there is no permanent cure for the disease, i was given medication to slow down the progress of the disease, at the initial stage it was not so bad till it progressed to the end middle stage were i had difficulties going about my daily functions as i constantly felt weakness in my legs, ankles and feet, i was totally devastated till my husband’s co-worker Mr Kenneth told us about a herbal doctor from South Africa who have herbal medicines for all kind of diseases including ALS, when i contact this herbal doctor via his email, he sent me two bottles of ALS herbal medicine through courier service, when i received this herbal medicine, he gave me step by instructions on how to apply it, when i applied it as instructed, i was cured of the disease within 22-24 days of usage. Contact this great herbal doctor via his email or call +27617403481 Goodluck

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