For San Angelo's Ford Family, ALS Hits Close to Home
Mike Ford is a handsome, gregarious owner of RM Ford Construction. He’s been in the construction business for 46 years in San Angelo. The most recent and memorable projects built by the Ford brothers are the modern Pinkie’s Liquor Store on South Bryant, Super Mercado on South Chadbourne, and the S.K.G. Engineering building on South Bryant. To many, Mike Ford had it all: A charming wife, an extended family, money, friends, and an accomplished career.
Mike was a member of the 1966 state champion Central High School Bobcat football team. He left San Angelo for college at Rice University where he played college football.
Life changed dramatically for the Ford family late last year. Mike, 65, had been complaining of pain in his finger and wrists. He volunteered for carpal tunnel treatment. It didn’t help much. Next, his shoulder was causing excruciating pain. It was the shoulder that led doctors to investigate Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis , or ALS, and in November 2013, he was diagnosed with the disease.
Mike Ford’s bout with ALS is a story about a family coming together to meet the challenge of a crisis. His wife Betty and daughter Elizabeth serve as Mike’s primary caregivers, keeping him comfortable in the familiar surroundings of his own home. “We support each other a lot,” Elizabeth explained Thursday at a fundraiser for finding an ALS cure on the Fords’ front yard in the Santa Rita neighborhood.
Well-wishers arrived from all walks of San Angelo society to take the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” in Mike’s name, including classmate and State Representative Drew Darby, County Judge Steve Floyd, and San Angelo’s Mayor Dwain Morrison. In all, over $5,000 was raised for ALS.
Mike’s journey started with sore joints in November 2013. Today, he’s on oxygen and has difficulty talking. He uses a computer that relays communication based upon his eye movement. He can still walk, but with great difficulty, Elizabeth said.
Below: Video of State Rep. Drew Darby taking the Ice Bucket Challenge on Mike Ford's front lawn (Contributed video, Bill Ford).
The Fords have employed two home health care providers. One is an ASU nursing student. “When I finally graduated in December 2013, I told my dad I was applying for jobs. My dad said, ‘no you’re not; you’re going to take care of me’, and that was that,” Elizabeth said. Elizabeth’s boyfriend William Tomlin is an IT professional and keeps Mike’s computer systems running so that he can communicate.
“The disease starts off with your hands, and then just takes over everything,” Elizabeth said. The pace of the degeneration is quick. Mike was originally diagnosed just 10 months ago. "He's 100 percent there mentally," Elizabeth explained. It's the neurological control of every day functions of the body that ALS breaks down.
Mike’s brother, Bill Ford serves as a County Commissioner for Tom Green County. He said his hat is off to Elizabeth and mom Betty. Bill keeps tabs on his brother’s care very closely, but in the end, he said, he can go home. Elizabeth and Betty can’t, he explained.
ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
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