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Event to highlight reality of ALS struggle

Staff Reports • Oct 21, 2015 at 7:00 PM

The Support Ashley’s Fight event will take place Friday at 6:30 p.m. at St. Stephen Catholic Community in Old Hickory.

Ashley Vickers is a 33-year-old Mt. Juliet mother of four who was recently diagnosed with ALS. The event will feature a pasta dinner, magic show, drinks and dancing. 

Millions participated in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge beginning in summer 2014. According to the ALS Association, more than 17 million people uploaded their challenge videos to Facebook; these videos were watched by 440 million people a total of 10 billion times. It is now an annual event that is intended to raise awareness and funds to find treatments and a cure for ALS.

However, apart from being a source of amusement on Facebook and You Tube – famous participants included Martha Stewart, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah and even President Barack Obama – how much has been learned about the horrible, tragic disease that is ALS and the struggle of our neighbors and their families facing an ALS diagnosis?

Vickers is determined to raise awareness of the reality of her condition as she fights against this disease.

She sought four medical opinions that included physicians at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic. It was finally confirmed last month that she is indeed facing the circumstances of ALS that will ultimately take her life.

Before the birth of her fourth child, Ashley was a vibrant, busy pediatric nurse, wife and mother to three girls. Her symptoms began to present themselves right after the birth of her son exactly one year ago.

The doctors think her disease was present but latent at the time of his birth, but it was brought to the surface when she received an epidural. Her symptoms began with slurred speech, muscle weakness and loss of balance.

Her condition quickly degenerated – just a few months ago she required assistance from her 13-year-old daughter to remove her baby from his car seat, as well as feed and change him, but she still managed day-to-day.

Today, she is unable to stay alone and barely has the strength to get out of bed. Two weeks ago, her muscle control had deteriorated so much that she fell, shattering her knee, dislocating her shoulder and spraining her wrist.

Her family is in the process of converting their two-story home into a wheelchair-accessible environment.

The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually lead to total paralysis that includes the inability to swallow or breathe, and the disease ultimately leads to death.

The average survival time for someone with ALS is three years. It is unlikely that she will see her youngest go to kindergarten or her eldest graduate from high school.

The fundraising event Oct. 23 will help pay for home health, hospice and other aspects of her care. However, more than drawing people to the event, Vickers is determined to educate people on the reality of ALS.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for children 10 and younger. Tickets are available after mass and online at helpashleysfight.wix.com/support-ashleys. For other questions, contact connect@angelaproffitt.com.

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