Monday, February 2, 2009

2 Fast 4 U


2 Fast 4 U

By Cappy Hall Rearick

"Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul."

Heroes don't always wear capes, uniforms or white hats.

Some of them, like Amy Munnell, wear pretty dresses. Some of them, like Bobby Brannigan, wear jeans, t-shirts and baseball caps

Heroes don't always play football or go to war for their country. Some of them, like Amy Munnell and Bobby Brannigan, use computers to fight for the things about which they feel most passionate.

Several years ago when Babe and I remodeled our house, we installed a small elevator. My friend Amy had never been able to visit me because there was no way for her wheelchair to climb our three flights of stairs. Having once been stuck on an elevator, it took her service dog, Kia, to help her conquer the resulting fear. Small home elevators, however, remained scary, so when our addition turned out to be too narrow for her chair to fit into, I was disappointed. I can still see the relief, however, on Amy's face.

When she came to St. Simons for a visit recently, we finally rode together on two very small elevators. Now, for most people, it wouldn't have made a blip on their courage radar chart. But for Amy, it was a leap of faith and I knew it.

We visited our mutual friend Debbie Brown near Savannah and were able to wander all three floors of her new home because Amy and I squeezed into Debbie's small home elevator. I didn't hear Amy's teeth chattering, although I'm sure in the back of her mind there hovered a big, fat fear of something going wrong to render her helpless.

When we returned to St. Simons, it was Amy who suggested we give my elevator another try since her newest chair was smaller. Voila! After zipping through two floors and landing on the third, we spent a lovely hour visiting like good girlfriends do ... like we had wanted to do for such a long time.

Amy was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and has lived her entire life in a wheelchair. Highly independent and determined to hold onto her spunk, she is cautious and doesn't take significant risks. In our twenty years of friendship, she gets around almost as well as I do, and I often forget that she gets to ride while I must walk.

Amy has a great sense of humor that I love plus an incredible outlook on life. Not only does she write and edit, she also creates fabric collages, two of which I own and treasure. She interviews authors and then posts the interviews on her blog, "Three Questions … and Answers." She loves to have fun — I've seen her "dance" to beach music at Ziggy Mahoney's on St. Simons Island. She is an amazing woman and she is my heroine.

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Bobby Brannigan is 58-years-old and was diagnosed with ALS sixteen years ago. Although the prognosis for ALS patients is a three to four-year survival, Bobby is beating those odds. His enthusiasm for life and for looking at each hour as another opportunity to raise ALS public awareness, allows him to keep fighting long after many of us would have given up.

Congress recently passed a bill to create a national ALS registry, thanks in large measure to Bobby's perseverance. He worked diligently at his computer sending out emails nearly every day to many people, garnering the needed support for getting the bill passed. On October 8, 2008, people across the country living with Lou Gehrig’s disease celebrated a tremendous victory when President Bush signed into law the ALS Registry Act.

The registry will collect information leading to the cause, treatment and cure of the deadly neurological disease that took the life of baseball legend Lou Gehrig in 1941. It will help in finding out what causes ALS, how it can be effectively diagnosed and treated, and ultimately how it can be cured. This one piece of legislation has brought hope to those dealing each day with ALS. Bobby Brannigan, helped to make it happen.

Bobby says, "I'm not handicapped. I'm just lazy." I beg to differ. Heroism has been defined as the habit of bearing up nobly under trials, danger and sufferings. From where I sit, the man who steers his wheelchair with a sign on the back that reads, "2 fast 4 U," lives the definition of heroism with every breath he struggles to take.

There are no Medals of Honor or Purple Hearts given out to those wounded by debilitating disorders. If there were, they would be awarded to my two heroes, Amy Munnell and Bobby Brannigan.

When it comes to Heroes, they don't come any bigger.

For more information on SMA or ALS, go to:

http://www.smafoundation.org

http://www.alsa.org

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