Matt wrote the following for a good friend of his, Doug Hedrick. Doug posted it on his website. You can visit Doug’s website at: http://livealifeworthliving.com/index.html
Doug’s mission is to change the way people think about life by producing products and resources that provoke thought and inspire action. Chaplain Hedrick first introduced this message to soldiers in the heat of battle, inspiring them to make the most of their present reality. Now his vision is to offer it to a world that hungers to live with a clearer mission, greater meaning and a unwavering passion to make a difference with their lives.
I cannot imagine being diagnosed with a disease that would one day cause me to not be able to walk, talk or even breathe on my own. This happened to a good friend of mine, Matt White who was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in January 2000. His story has encouraged thousands of people. I am including a portion of Matt’s amazing story so that you can learn what is helping him get through a very challenging time in his life. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of how to successfully live a life worth living, then I encourage you to read on, and hear from someone who has discovered one of the secrets to achieve this life—a winning attitude. – Doug Hedrick
“As human beings, people of free will, it is the choices we make that most influence who we are, what we are, what will happen to us, and how we’ll handle it. There are many types of choices we make everyday like Letterman or Leno, paper or plastic, pepperoni, sausage or both. There are also important decisions to make such as who to marry, where to work and how to raise our children. It’s the choices that make things happen. Choices put everything we have and everything we are into action. This is especially true with regard to one’s abilities and talents. Everyone has them but the real choice is how effectively they are used. In my case I was blessed with the physical and mental gifts of a strong body and mind. I was positive and optimistic about life. To be honest, it was easy then because everything was going well. I had a stable and supportive family. I used my talents to become a star athlete and received a good education. I had lots of friends, a nice house, a nice car, and a great career. But what would I do if that were all to change? How would I respond? The answer to those questions came in January 2000 when I was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.ALS is a fatal degenerative neuromuscular disease that affects the synapse between the voluntary muscles and the nerves that control them. Eventually all of the body’s voluntary muscles atrophy and fail. Ultimately each person with ALS dies when their diaphragm stops working and they stop breathing. When diagnosed ALS patients are told the same thing Lou Gehrig was told more than 60 years ago- ALS has no known cause, no treatment, and no cure. It has been almost eight years since I was told these things and the only way I’ve gotten through those years is by choosing to live with a winning attitude. I first had weakness in my left hand and gradually lost the use of my hands, arms and legs. I also began to have difficulty breathing, speaking and swallowing. Within four years of my diagnosis I got food through a stomach tube, air from a ventilator and was entirely dependent on the people around me for my comfort and safety. Now my speech is nearly unintelligible and I’m able to move my head a little from side to side. I’m kept alive now because of the ventilator and tracheotomy that will accompany me for the rest of my life. As my muscles continue to weaken, we make adaptive changes to help improve my quality of life. The ventilator that does my breathing is about the size of a toaster, and is just about as easy to operate. It runs on an 8 hour battery and straps to the back of my wheelchair. A wireless laptop attached to my wheelchair accompanies me nearly everywhere. With a slight movement of my head the computer talks for me, reads to me, turns on and adjusts household appliances, TV’s and stereos, does my typing and keeps me totally connected with the world. If I want to hop in the pool I get into a floating chair I designed and if I want to go boating I strap my wheel chair to a lift and drop right in for a ride. I’ve invented 3 different fishing reels that I can operate almost entirely by myself using only the blink of one eye. Much of my time is spent fishing, a passion that has easily replaced my love for playing golf. Knowing what I faced after my diagnosis I had to decide what to do with the time I had left. By choosing to live with a winning attitude, I decided to control as much of my future as I could and to make the most of this negative. The first four years I did what most would call “lived with ALS.” I worked as long as I could at a job that I loved, trying to make a valuable contribution. I traveled and spent time with family and friends, doing my favorite things; including playing golf at each of the top 10 golf courses in the United States I created a charitable foundation, and with the generous support of so many colleagues and friends, helped raise more than $300,000 for ALS research. I spent time reading and praying, seeking greater faith, peace of mind, and courage to face the day when I would stop breathing and die. I lived life like the end was nearing. Ultimately, I gave up driving, golfing, walking, eating, and the independence of bathing and dressing myself. I left Chicago and moved to Florida to be near my parents in my final months. I felt good about my life and what I’d done in the recent years. After my life was extended with the ventilator I’ve continued to live with a winning attitude. My favorite thing to do is spend time with my wife shartrina doing just about anything we want. We fish, work on our trees and plants, garden in and around our home, watch movies, entertain visitors and go on trips. I also find ways to enjoy myself without needing to use the physical strength I once needed for my favorite hobbies. We live in a pristine area of Southwest Florida that has a tremendous variety and abundance of fish. Within minutes we can be fishing in the gulf or on the grass flats that surround this area. I have become pretty good as an on-line scrabble player and enjoy the challenge of research and speculation in the stock market. It’s been almost four years since I came home from the hospital on the ventilator, and it seems that every week the quality of my life improves. I have discovered that by choosing to be positive, not focusing on what I can’t control but only on what I can, I’m able to do nearly everything I want to do, limited only by my desire and my imagination. It’s the same thing anyone with a winning attitude can do.”
–The Bible says, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is”