Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Local Man with Als Gives Gift of Memories O'hara Couple Decide to Live Life to Fullest as Disease Takes Its Toll

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Local Man with Als Gives Gift of Memories O'hara Couple Decide to Live Life to Fullest as Disease Takes Its Toll

Article excerpt

The second-to-last gifts the Alexander children of O'Hara will find beneath their Christmas tree this morning are two tickets to Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Their father, Neil Alexander, learned 18 months ago that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition more often known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. The average life expectancy for a person with ALS is two to five years after diagnosis.

Mr. Alexander and his wife, Suzanne, have decided they will spend the time he has left making memories as a family.

That's why, when 10-year-old Abby and 8-year-old Patrick open their final presents this morning, they'll find two plane tickets to New York City.

And if they go to their rooms, they'll see their bags are packed.

And they'll realize that their flight leaves this afternoon.

"We'll be on the plane by 2," Mrs. Alexander said.

It's something they've long planned -- surprising the kids with plane tickets and leaving Christmas Day -- but now their plans have a new level of urgency.

"You do have a limited sense of time," said Mr. Alexander, 47, an executive at Downtown-based financial firm Hefren-Tillotson.

That limited sense of time was especially acute in June 2011, when Mr. Alexander received his diagnosis. He and his wife spent the first few months preparing for his death. But then they decided to live with ALS.

They recently finished a renovation of their house, moving the master suite from the second floor to the first and making other changes to accommodate Mr. Alexander's needs.

They also decided to spend their time helping others live with ALS.

Earlier this year, the Alexanders created LiveLikeLou.org, a fund that has been raising awareness of ALS and supporting research and patient care. The fund is named after baseball legend Lou Gehrig, who died from ALS and who Mr. Alexander considers a model for living with the disease.

And for the past several months, the family has become more intentional about making memories, the ones that will "most cement who Neil is to this family," Mrs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.