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Lysne: The joy of finding common ground

By Sarah Lysne

My family and I were invited to my nephew’s wedding in Austin, Texas. I had not flown since being diagnosed with ALS. I don’t like to fly and having ALS complicated things, but I met a new friend.

I needed to be escorted in a wheelchair. The woman who was my escort was from Ethiopia. She told me that she will be going back to her country for a month to celebrate Easter because their calendar was different than ours. She said she could only stay for a month because of the political unrest in her country. She said she had worked at the airport for five years, and that none of her family members lived in the United States. She asked about my condition, and like many people, she didn’t know a lot about ALS. She said if I read the Bible and pray to Jesus, that I might be healed. I decided to take her advice. My new friend and I have two important things in common; the love of our faith and our families. We were both willing to put in a lot of effort to spend time with family, and we both believed that our faith would get us through our most difficult challenges in life.

I never imagined that I would have so much in common with my niece’s two year old son, Logan, but I did. At the wedding reception, Logan and I sat near each other surrounded by our family members. I was the only person at the reception who was eye level to him. I was sitting on the chair part of my walker and he sat in his stroller. Logan looked at me and smiled. His happy smile made me smile and laugh. When I laughed his smile got wider and his whole face lit up. I was amazed that he continued smiling at me for a long time. I wasn’t sure why. Was he amused by the chip in my front tooth? I wanted to tell him that it would soon be repaired. Did he like the way the sun was reflecting off of the sequins on my jacket? Somebody took a picture of the two of us. The picture shows a small rainbow between the stroller and the walker. Logan’s dad said Logan and I must be kindred spirits. I was just glad that we had each other because we were the only two guests sitting on chairs with wheels.

As I mentioned earlier, I really don’t like to fly, but a friend of mine who works for the airlines, made my life easier on our flight home from Texas. She emailed the crew on our flight, and asked them to pay special attention to us and make our flight as comfortable as possible. It was fun to talk to the crew members as we boarded the plane. They asked about how I knew my friend, and told me that they would be there if we needed anything at all. They brought us extra snacks and checked with us several times during the flight to make sure that everything was okay. When we landed, there was a wheelchair waiting for me to take us to the baggage claim. Having my good friend connect us to the crew, made me feel special. I felt like we made some new friends on the way home. One of the crew members was even from Rochester. It is a small world.

I have a strong feeling that I need to learn to enjoy flying. My dream is that I can stop my ALS from progressing. I hope to have the opportunity to fly around the country, and talk about all the things I did to stop the disease from progressing. I would tell people about receiving my own stem cells in stem cell therapy, vitamins, yoga, acupuncture, reiki, meditation, seeing a therapist, and eating foods high in protein and fat to keep my weight on. I would tell people that having an attitude of a survivor, and being brave, are key elements to enjoy each day. Maybe flying can become a way of life for me, and I can share my joy of living with people around the country.