‘HOPING FOR MIRACLE’: Pocatello mother suffering from ALS to receive experimental treatment

December 27, 2018
Connie Rushton, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, sits surrounded by some of her children, from left, Brooke, 15; Brionna, 23; and Xander, 12; and her husband Rocky.

A Pocatello woman who was recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease is hoping for a miracle.

Connie Rushton, 46, was first diagnosed with ALS, a fatal neurological disease that weakens muscles, in October. Before her diagnosis, Rushton said she was very active, walking a five-mile mountain route every day, taking her kids to and from school and cheering them on at their sporting events.

“Connie has always been so active with the kids,” said Connie’s husband, Rocky Rushton. “She was the soccer mom. She would run them to practice and be the team photographer, so to speak. But there toward the end of the season, it got to where she couldn’t even hold the camera up to take pictures.”

Now, Connie said she is not only unable to drive, but virtually unable to move.

Connie and her family are hoping that an experimental treatment will cure her and an online fundraiser has been set up to help pay for the treatment after her insurance denied coverage.

“This has been a challenge for me in that it’s been very aggressive,” Connie said about her ALS via text message. Her speech is now slurred and slowed, which makes it difficult for her to communicate outside of writing.

However, Connie and her family are hoping that their luck will turn around with the help of the experimental treatment at a neurological recovery center in Denver.

Connie said one of her doctors, who is also her nephew, recommended the center to her. The experimental treatment, which includes stem cell therapy, hyberbaric oxygen therapy and IV therapy, among other things, is just now being tested on patients with ALS.

Connie will be one of the first ALS patients to receive this treatment, so not much is known about its effectiveness.

But the Rushtons are optimistic.

“We’re hopeful that they can do something, and we’ll have some success to raise her quality of life,” Rocky said. “But we’re also hoping that through the research, they may find something that, even if it doesn’t necessarily work for her, will lead down the road to maybe finding a cure.”

“We’re hoping for a miracle,” said Connie, a mother of six children, one of whom tragically passed away two years ago.

Though ALS is a fairly well-known disease and many prominent figures including physicist and author Stephen Hawking and the disease’s namesake, baseball player Lou Gehrig, have died from it, there is still no cure.

Connie and Rocky will travel to the treatment center in Denver on Jan. 6 for the two-week long treatment.

Because the treatment is experimental, their insurance will cover no more than the lab work.

So a friend of the family set up a GoFundMe to help raise money for the treatment, which Connie said could cost anywhere from $18,000 to $25,000. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/connies-life-with-als.

The GoFundMe has already raised over $4,000 in the 11 days it has been set up, which Connie and Rocky said has surprised them.

“We are very appreciative and amazed,” Connie said.

“It really shows who your friends are and how many people really care about you and love you,” Rocky added. “We’ve had a lot of people who have, if not stepped in and helped, at least offered to help. It’s nice to know that if something happens, I have someone that’s willing to help out.”

To help pay for the treatment, Connie said she withdrew her individual retirement account early. Though that will help cover the costs, she said they will now have to deal with early withdrawal penalties and taxes.

But despite all their challenges, Connie and Rocky said the diagnosis has helped them grow closer as a family.

“I think it’s brought us together,” Rocky said. “Me and her especially, but even the kids have been more willing to pitch in and help out. It’s brought the whole family a little bit closer. It’s just unfortunate that tragedies have to be the catalyst that do that.”

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