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Watching The Game Is On His (Ice) Bucket List

August 24, 2014

With the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in full swing, I’d like to share a personal encounter with a man I met during my training at medical school. I have called him “Dave” to protect his identity.


Dave’s story does not end with dropping an ice bucket over someone’s head. Instead, it starts undramatically with the dropping of a glass.

Most of what follows was written in 2007.

Dave dropped a glass of water. It was a shattering moment that changed his life forever; setting into motion chains of events that would shackle him physically, yet liberate him spiritually.

I am seated at Dave’s bedside.

He relives the image of a slowly plummeting glass. A crash. A feeling of foreboding… and…then… the realization that something feels terribly wrong.

Following this incident, Dave consulted a general practitioner who referred him to a neurologist. In May 2002, Dave was diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND).

“What is my prognosis?” He had asked upon hearing the news.

“You have no prognosis” was the callous reply.

He pauses and closes his eyes. I give him the silence he needs to re-gather his thoughts.

Upon diagnosis, Dave immediately set about researching the condition, and joined the MND society. He was recently filmed narrating his life and educating health workers on the handling of MND patients. Such inner strength was a source of comfort and support for his family during a time of distress and uncertainty.

“Where was I?” Dave asks, as he continues to dig up those old memories.

He goes on to describe a series of negative milestones. He remembers the adaptations to his everyday life, such as raising the toilet seat and modifying his car to enable him to drive. He vividly recalls the last time he walked (2004) and, after a brief period in an electric wheelchair, he moved his hands for the last time in 2005.

Currently, Dave is completely paralyzed from the neck downwards, and needs a full-time nurse for his 24 hour a day care . He says that he cannot move at all but he can feel everything. Sometimes, nurses assume he is quadriplegic and handle him roughly; not knowing that he has heightened sensation.

Prior to physical deterioration, Dave was an active man who participated in hiking, cycling and gym. Now, he has replaced the love for competing with a passion for spectatorship; devoting his time to watching sporting events on television. He sees each sports event as a chronological milestone, and smiles when he says that he keeps himself going by reaching sporting anniversaries.

He recalls a discussion with his neurologist,

Dave: “Will I be alive to see the cricket world cup?”

Neurologist: “Yes”

Dave: “Will I be alive to see Wimbledon?”

Neurologist: “Yes”

Dave: “Will I be alive to see the rugby world cup?”

Neurologist: “Ask me during Wimbledon!”

Dave has not lost his sense of humour. Despair has been replaced by acceptance. Focus on achieving has been replaced by a pleasure in merely being.

Whenever I see a video clip of someone showering ice over her head, memories of Dave wash over me. I am reminded of the life of a remarkable man, with an unbreakable spirit, who was willing to share his story with me.


It is a gift that I will carry with me always.



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  1. Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really
    enjoy your content. Please let me know. Cheers

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