ALS not stopping Polisso

ALS not stopping Polisso
January 18, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Robert Braunstein

Like most of us, I go through my day and get mad at the little things and let them bother me more than I should. Yesterday was one of those days where everything seemed to be going wrong with little things keeping me from getting all of my tasks done for the day.

One of those tasks was going to interview Nancy Polisso. I knew Nancy several years ago when her daughter Sami was our Scholar Athlete for the winter season. Sami was a great player and student at Pinewood school. I remember going to shoot her games and marveling at her abilities. I met Nancy at one of those games. She was in the stands taking care of her three little ones. Nancy and her husband have five children.

The reason I was going to interview her yesterday was because she has ALS. Nancy was stricken with this horrible disease four years ago. Nancy was also a basketball player and very active with her family. I hadn’t really thought of how the disease is affecting her now. I was just thinking the obstacles standing in the way of getting my tasks done for the day.

I should have known better. I knew Charlie Wedemeyer very well. He battled ALS for nearly three decades. I never knew Charlie when he did not have ALS, I did know Nancy before she was diagnosed. I also know Don Altier the father of twin boys who played football at Westmont High school. I keep in touch with Don on facebook as he battles ALS as well.

ALS robs the person of their muscles. Eventually the ALS victim has no use of their muscles at all. When I walked into the apartment to interview Nancy she was sitting in a battery powered wheel chair. Her look had changed a lot. She has limited use of her legs and arms, and has a hard time breathing. Nancy knows she will soon lose her ability to breath and eat on her own. She will at some point have to decide whether to use a respirator and feeding tube to stay alive. Charlie Wedemeyer lived like that for better than 20 years.

Baily Polisso is a senior at Mtn. View High school, her sister Carly is a Freshman. Both play on the Mtn. View Varsity team. Nancy goes to every game to see her girls play, and to remember a time when she would coach them on their club teams. One other child Frank is an eighth grader. Nancy says her goal is to live long enough to see Frank graduate from High School. A simple goal, but a very sad one.

Nancy says her doctors told her she would live between two and five years. It’s been four years and Nancy is doing far better than doctors estimated. But she is fading away, there’s no question. As I talked with her yesterday I was amazed at the positive attitude and smiles as she talked about her life and what lies ahead. There’s no question her family creates the joy in her life. She goes to the Mtn. View basketball games and this year she follows the Los Gatos varsity team coached by Sami.

I left the apartment that day proud of the Polisso family for handling this horrible situation so well. I hope my story will help bring attention to their plight and maybe some support for all Nancy needs to exists. But I was mad at myself for getting so irritated earlier that day for the little things going against me that day. Sitting in that chair, with little use of her arms and legs, Nancy reminded me these little problems mean nothing. What Nancy battles everyday with courage and a positive attitude is a lesson for us all.

The story on the girls and Nancy will air on our show in a few weeks.