Gerald McCormick, a Gulf War veteran, had read somewhere that veterans are more likely to have ALS. But like most people, he figured that was something that happens to other people, never imagining it would impact him and his family. Until it did.
Gerald lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a former state legislator, acting as house majority leader for six years, before retiring from that position in 2018. In early 2021, he developed a limp in his right leg. After many months of doctor visits and arduous testing, it was finally confirmed to be ALS.
“Of course we were shocked and didn't really believe it,” he recalls. “I went to three or four different neurologists and finally was convinced by the last one at Vanderbilt.” After getting over the shock he started to learn more about the disease and how others lived and coped with it. “I had a fraternity brother who went through this about 10 years ago. A couple of guys that I went to high school with have been through this. And so I've talked to their family members, and it just hits all different people in different ways. So we decided that we're just going to deal with it,” he says.
Not long after his diagnosis, a memory popped up on his Facebook page. “It was on the floor of the House of Representatives in Tennessee. In 2015, we got a visit from a guy named Tim Shaw who used to be a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans,” he remembers. Tim had recently been diagnosed with ALS and was appearing before the legislature, sharing his story, and advocating for the community and funding to help people impacted by the disease.
Gerald realized he had the experience and connections to help, and he joined up with advocacy team at The ALS Association. “Having been the House majority leader and also, the last two years I was in the legislature, I was chairman of the budget committee that finalized budgets. I am in a position to know the people and know the process of how to get money appropriated through the state,” he said. “And we have a number of states with really big budget surpluses, and this is the kind of thing that gets people's attention. And if they think they can really move the needle just a little bit, they're more likely to do it. And if they know someone who has got ALS it helps, it personalizes it.”
“Use me while you got me,” Gerald said to the team, “I value this partnership with The ALS Association and the opportunity to share my story, advocating for the ALS community. Because, above all else, I value the effort we all make together to end this disease. And with the progress I see being made in ALS research and care, I have a lot of hope. Maybe—just maybe—we can beat this thing once and for all, before my five-year-old granddaughter gets older, so she won’t be at risk for this disease.”
“One day we'd like to see a cure. Obviously, everyone would, and hopefully at some point someone's going to break through and think, ‘Wow, this is how it happens. Here's how we can stop it.’ And they'll be rich and famous, and I'll be glad for them,” says Gerald “I realize that that's probably not going to happen in my lifetime, but if it happens for the next generation, that would be wonderful.”
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