Author Topic: Navy veteran lobbies Ottawa for ALS research, support  (Read 1585 times)

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Navy veteran lobbies Ottawa for ALS research, support
« on: November 18, 2013, 11:12:54 PM »
Navy veteran lobbies Ottawa for ALS research, support

ByJeff Hicks

http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4224188-navy-veteran-lobbies-ottawa-for-als-research-support/

Home News Local Navy veteran lobbies Ottawa for ALS research,...

Michael Watson's lift chair lowered him slowly into the swimming pool.

It was his first dip in nearly a decade.

That's a long time for a sea-faring soul who spent 22 years on Canadian navy ships and subs until amyotrophic lateral sclerosis attacked his sturdy stroke.

"It felt good to be back in the water," said Watson, a 49-year-old Cambridge native.

But he couldn't really relax in the pool during a recent cruise he and his wife Brenda took to the eastern Caribbean. His diaphragm is so weak. It was hard to breathe.

Watson is 10 years into his battle with ALS now. It was a battle he was supposed to lose to a progressively failing central nervous system and softening muscles in no more than five years. Yet, he is still cruising with his wife to mark their looming 50th birthdays.

"Every birthday is a bonus," Brenda said on Monday from Ottawa.

And every visit to the nation's capital is a mission to fight for the plight of veterans fighting Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the Yankees slugger who died of ALS in 1941. Veterans are twice as likely to acquire the devastating affliction. Its cause is unknown. Its cure is an unsolved mystery.

On Tuesday, Watson and a top researcher will meet with four members of Parliament to press for more money for research, and benefits for caregivers. Watson has made several trips to pester the government on behalf of veterans with ALS in recent years.

In 2010, Ottawa came through with more rapid access to disability benefits and home-care support.

The Watsons, with teenage daughters Michelle and Kimberly, live just outside Halifax, where they met. Kimberly got to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper once. Both daughters have been to many camps and support groups associated with their dad's affliction.

Such a frightening diagnosis has led to many positive experiences, Brenda said.

Ten years ago, they were devastated by the doctor's words.

"You feel alone," Brenda recalled. "You feel you might be the only one going through this."

The feeling of aloneness is something Watson is working to eliminate by bolstering the support for veterans with ALS. On Tuesday, he'll talk to politicians slowly through a special speaker that boosts his fading voice.

Ten years into his five-months-to-live, he rode around the nation's capital on Monday.

"He's on his power-chair," Brenda said with a laugh. "He could be just about anywhere."

On the slow descent that is life with ALS, the modest peaks must be enjoyed.

"We're very, very fortunate," Brenda said.

"We've seen a lot of others come and go."

jhicks@therecord.com