Bruce Kramer was Dean of the School of Education, Leadership and Counseling at the University of St. Thomas when he was first diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. That was on December 6, 2010. ALS is an incurable disease, the same one that took the 1930’s baseball icon, Lou Gehrig. And today, Bruce Kramer is being treated at the same Mayo Clinic where Lou Gehrig received treatment. Although there are several drugs and technological helps, such as a power chair, being used today to help Bruce Kramer move, breathe and manage his disease minimally, he is keenly aware of the inevitability of the ever-growing loss of strength and mobility, of body changes, of mental readjustments and emotional crises. These are never absent even with every sunrise or sunset, every breath or movement of his pen. He continues to write a blog, using voice recognition software. Last year in an interview with Cathy Wurzer he mentioned the software that aids his correspondence:
Right. My whole life, I thought with my fingers. If I really wanted to know how I thought
about something I’d just start twiddling on the keyboard and eventually I’d look up and there
was something that kind of made sense to me. It’s taken me a while to make the transitions.
But yes, now I use the voice recognition software. I’m actually beginning to use it to control
the computer itself. You can tell it to mouse up, mouse down, double click, things like that, and
that actually has saved me some energy and allowed me to continue to work even when I’m
really, really tired.
I’m practicing with an eye gazing system which would speak for me if I lose my voice and that’s
hard. That’s pretty hard stuff but I’m practicing. … I’m getting better. You don’t want to get
this stuff when you need it, you want to get it before you do…
Bruce Kramer, now in his 50s, is an amazing person. In just four years his self-perception has had to change innumerable times, and he describes it as a jarring experience each time. He keeps a bucket list but he says very emphatically: “You have to care about other people besides yourself.”
Minnesota Public Radio continues its series of stories about Bruce Kramer. You can read all of them at: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/living_with_als/
Renée Domeier, OSB