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PLS or ALS Have a Happy Thanksgiving

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This Thanksgiving I have a lot to be thankful for, even though I have been diagnosed with a muscle disease that has somewhat altered my busy lifestyle.

This disease has caused me to reflect back on my childhood.

As a young boy growing up in Trenton, North Carolina, I wanted to obey my parents orders to stay in our yard, but something would always force me to slip off to my cousin’s house down the road.

Of course I would wind up getting a whipping and as soon as the pain would go away, I would do it all over again. I often think about that tugging invisible force now when the motor neurons in my body want to go in one direction while I want to go in another.

For the past few years, I have wrestled with some health issues that have slowed me down but not put me out. In October of 2002, I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) most commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a progressive disorder of the nervous system which causes degeneration in both upper and lower motor neurons and results in muscle weakness.

The loss of lower motor neurons leads to weakness, twitching of muscles, and muscle loss. The loss of upper motor neurons causes stiffness, cramping, and weakness. This illness has no cure and it is considered fatal. The timeline is controlled by God, as is all life.

After visiting another physician and given another battery of tests, I was then diagnosed with Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS). This is a rare neuromuscular disease, in the same family as ALS, is characterized by progressive muscle weakness in the voluntary muscles. It causes difficulty with balance, weakness and stiffness in the legs, and clumsiness.

It also causes spasticity of movement, another way of saying sudden involuntary muscle spasms in the hands, feet or legs. This causes me to move very slowly, which runs in our family. In fact, I have an uncle on my mother’s side of the family that moves slower than me, but he does not have the disease. PLS is also a motor neuron disease of which there is no cure. However, this disorder is not fatal. Once again, the timeline is control by God as is all life.

At this time I am doing just fine, resetting my priorities and making sure I’m careful about what I do. This isn’t hard since I’ve done that all of my life. Why am I so thankful and truly believe that in due time God will have me return to my normal self? Because I’ve been here before. As a young boy I remember playing in the woods where my mama had told me not to play. I stepped on a rusty nail and did not tell her until I could not walk on it anymore. At that point she applied home remedies to reduce infection, but to no avail.

It was Easter morning when they discovered I could not swallow and they had to rush me to the hospital. At one point during the crisis I was pronounced dead and my mama ran out of the hospital room and prayed a simple prayer, “Father let thy will be done not mine but this is your child you have entrusted me with.” Dr. Kriter then came out of the room and informed my mama that I had started breathing again and was still in the land of the living. I have something to be thankful to God for.

Another time was when all of Floyd and Essie Brown’s children were summoned home because our 72-year-old father was diagnosed with cancer and given only 3 to 6 months to live. I remember sitting across the table from the doctor when he said that we should take our father to California and have him enjoy his remaining days here.

My father did come to California -- some 2 years later – but not as a man enjoying his last days on earth. He came as a preacher and preached at St. Paul AME Church. My father told me that what the doctor did not know was that he had prayed to the Father prior to under- going surgery. When my father did finally pass away, it was 8 years later, and of an unrelated illness. I have something to be thankful to God for.

Another time was when our son broke his femur bone and the result was devastating. A blood clot traveled through his body clogging his lungs, making breathing impossible. The doctors told us there was nothing else they could do except induce a coma and wait. That is when the story of my mother came to mind and I prayed the same simple prayer that she had prayed for me, “Lord let Thy will be done.” It is a tremendous relief when you let His will be done and not yours.

Nineteen days later Hardy Jr. was removed from the life support machines without any guarantee of living. On the exact moment that the tubes were being removed from his body my Bible fell open to John 11:4 -- Jesus said “This sickness is not unto his death but was to the glory of God, that the Son maybe glorified through it”. Many people prayed for him and some prayed who were not believers. I have something to be thankful to God for.

Since these motor neurons in my body have being misbehaving our family has even grown closer together.

Our daughter Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds now works for the business full time and took over all of the administrative duties I used to perform. As a matter of fact she has completed computerized all of the activities and taken the business functions to another level. She has also written several proposals that have taken our presence in the community to another level. Our grandson Alexander comes to the office and empties the trash and performs other odd jobs. Robert Haynes, our circulation person and adopted grandson, prepares the newspapers for mailing each and every week. I have something to be thankful to God for.

Regina, our other daughter, quit her job in sales and joined the business full time as Advertising Director plus manages our main office in Riverside. She has demonstrated her technical abilities by computerizing our legal advertising operation and added an Urban Chic section to the paper to attract a younger reading audience. Her daughter Kennedy is the one who makes sure I take my medication, helps me up from bed, makes sure I do my stretching exercises, and take a nap during the day time. They put a sofa in my office to make it happen. I have something to be thankful to God for.

My wife Cheryl has revamped her entire way of life to ensure that all of my personal and business needs are met. She drives me to the office. She takes me to doctor appointments. She takes me to business appointments. She takes me to church and any other places I want to go. All of that is good and sometimes she even stands in for me when I cannot fulfill a promise to do something. She makes sure I eat three times a day. This was something I use to not do. She took over all of the household responsibilities because these activities can be stressful sometimes. She has done this without missing a stride in her step. She has taught me a new respect for the word “patience.” I have something to be thankful to God for.

I don’t know when these motor neurons in my body are going to obey my brain and go where I tell them to go or do what I want them to do, but I do know that one day they will obey the command of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and I will return to the same old Hardy Brown.

Until then, He wants me to keep on keeping on and give Him all of the Honor and Glory that He deserves from this poor old country boy from the tobacco fields of Trenton, North Carolina. Even with ALS or PLS, Have a Happy Thanksgiving from Hardy Brown and family here at The Black Voice News.

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