Ken Danridge was just 56 years old when he was diagnosed with ALS. Married for 13 years to his wife Amy, Ken is the father of three young children – Blake, Maya and Addison. Ken also served in the U.S. Air force for nearly 20 years and was stationed in Oklahoma City during the terrorist bombing in 1995. With the muscles in his body progressively weakening, Ken now uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, a feeding tube to eat, and a ventilator to breathe. Despite the many limitations ALS has imposed on his once active lifestyle, Ken remains a beacon of positivity, intent on using his diagnosis to connect with others with the disease and influence and motivate the people around him. Below, Ken shares his philosophy on living with ALS.
Greetings, my name is Ken and I have ALS. I was officially diagnosed in March of 2017, but I had symptoms for about two years prior to the confirmation. I didn’t really think much about the periodic loss of fine motor skills in my left hand, but when I developed a dropped left foot I became concerned.
An EMG and a few other tests and it was confirmed. I had the usual thoughts of why me, how did it happen, etc. Then it dawned on me that this was God’s plan for my life. I turned to Him for guidance and low and behold parts of His plan were made visible to me.
People who interact with me will be changed. How, I don’t know but their approach to life will change as a result of seeing me in my new physical state. For example, my caregiver, who we found via a friend through Facebook, is a CNA who is presently studying to be a respiratory therapist. Since I am on a ventilator, she’s getting hands on experience to complement her formal education. If I didn’t have ALS she would miss out on this opportunity to further enhance her care giving skills.
“At the end of the day, you never know who you may influence as a result of having this disease. ”
Another example is a friend at church told me that he felt a calling to lead a small group ever since seeing me in ICU during a bout of pneumonia I had earlier in the year. At this time, he comes to my house every week with another gentleman and he leads us through scripture. I believe ALS has helped my friend fulfill his calling and he has made me stronger through his leadership with our bible study.
In short, ALS is a bad disease. However, you have a choice in how you choose to live with it. I am taking it as a blessing from God. I will help others through this disease. My family will be stronger, my friends have become more generous and I get to experience retirement – even if it’s a little bit early in life. I’m not bitter, I am happy that I can still do good things for others and that’s what life is all about.
As a military veteran, Ken was twice as likely as the general public to be diagnosed with ALS. Individuals who have served in the military – any branch, any war, or even during peace time – have a much higher likelihood of being diagnosed with ALS than civilians. Learn more about ALS and the military here.
Ken’s journey with ALS, along with our friend Sean Nolan and the John Cochran VA Hospital, was recently featured by Fox 2 News. View their coverage here:
If you or someone you know has ALS, or, if you’d like to learn more about how you can support families battling the disease, please visit our website at www.alsa-stl.org.