ALS patients and caregivers (clockwise from top left) Murray Vatamaniuck, Esther and Bob Blaylock, Gerald and Pat Hanson, Bernie and Darlene Jaeger, walk co-ordinator Jennifer Jeys, Randy and Karen Gossen and Cathy Vatamaniuck gather for a dinner at Castle Bistro as they work out details for the 8th annual walk June 9 at Polson Park. (Submitted Photo)

ALS reality revealed by Vernon man

Once active man confined to wheelchair by disease - but still determined to roll June 9 in Walk for ALS

As a conservation officer for 30 years, Murray Vatamaniuck has always been very active. Even after retiring 15 years ago, his days were filled with hikes and outdoor adventures.

So it was odd to Vatamaniuck when he noticed that his legs seemed to start giving out on him, on occasion.

“On some of my hikes outdoors I started tripping,” said the now 70-year-old. “It was very puzzling. I attributed it to old age but it was more than that.”

He lived with such symptoms for about a year until he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) in 2015.

“It’s a slow process,” he said of the neurological muscular disease, which first took over his legs and he expects will take over his arms in the coming year.

“I can’t even stand on my own so I acquired a power wheelchair. That’s my legs at this point in time. The only thing I can do is brush my teeth and feed myself.”

Being unable to travel, camp, fish and ski and lead the active lifestyle he was so used to was a tough pill for Vatamaniuck to swallow.

“That’s the hard part, having to give up things.”

But the Parker Cove resident and his caregiver/wife Cathy are grateful for the support that the ALS Society of B.C. lends him, through equipment and more.

“ALS takes a horrific toll on our lives,” said Cathy. “Through the BC ALS Society providing us with help emotionally, educationally and through the loan of equipment life is made more bearable.”

Which is why you’ll see the Parker Cove couple out again at the eighth annual Walk for ALS Saturday, June 9 at Polson Park.

See related: The 2018 Walk for ALS set for June

The event raises funds to support people just like Vatamaniuck, with 60 per cent of the funds collected going directly to patient assistance to loan various pieces of equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, commodes, support poles). The remaining 40 per cent goes to ALS research.

“It would be hugely expensive on our own,” said Vatamaniuck, who also needs a special hospital bed and lift.

This year’s walk starts at 11 a.m., with registration at 10 a.m.

“The hard work of our volunteers and staff at ALS BC, along with the funds raised from the walks help to support people with ALS in BC tremendously,” said Wendy Toyer, Executive Director of the ALS Society of BC. “Through their efforts, we are able to provide crucial medical equipment, support and other services for people affected by this disease.”

To join the cause and help stop ALS in its tracks visit www.walkforals.ca


@VernonNews
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