Oak Brook man remains upbeat while battling ALS
Oak Brook resident Norm Silverstein plays bridge with friends in his home. | Chuck Fieldman—Sun-Times Media
What: ALS Walk4Life
When: 10:30 a.m., Sept. 22
Where: Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago
Why: to raise money for the fight against ALS
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 847-679-3311
Updated: November 12, 2012 1:29AM
OAK BROOK — Life has been full of changes for Norm Silverstein ever since he was diagnosed with a disease for which there still is no cure.
Doctors told the 72-year-old Oak Brook resident in January 2011 that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The initial shock for Silverstein and his family was learning that he had a terminal neuromuscular disease that attacks a person’s muscles, gradually robbing them of their ability to walk, speak, eat and breathe, while at the same time usually not negatively impacting their mind.
Silverstein’s physical problems from having ALS have pretty much been confined to his breathing. He relies on a non-invasive ventilator, a power wheelchair and a feeding tube, but still is able to walk some.
One of the biggest adjustments has been learning to allow others to do things for him.
“As a person who has always done charity work, it’s been difficult for me when people ask what they can do for me,” Silverstein said.
Silverstein learned of his medical situation after returning home from a trip to Aruba in late 2010, where he couldn’t breathe while snorkeling.
Neither Silverstein nor his wife, Mimi, knew anything about ALS.
“The first thing I thought about after finding out about this was what will happen to my wife and family,” he said. “I don’t know how long I’ll be around, and I thought I better get things in order.”
Mimi Silverstein said the reality took a while to sink in.
“At first, I was sort of numb,” she said.
The Silversteins quickly made contact with the Les Turner ALS Foundation, a Chicago-area organization dedicated to the treatment and elimination of the disease. The foundation’s services include support group meetings, professional in-home consultation services, communications and durable medical equipment programs, respite care grants, and educational activities.
Silverstein’s activities are limited because of his ALS. But he continues to socialize as much as possible.
“I have friends who come and pick me up a couple of times a week, and they come over to visit, too,” he said. “I play bridge two to three times a week.”
A year ago, former neighbors Edie and Joel Bernstein of Elmhurst formed Team Norm, a group of about 50 friends who raised $8,000 in the 2011 ALS Walk4Life. More than 100 people made donations to the cause.
Team Norm will be back in action for the Sept. 22, ALS Walk4Life at Soldier Field.
“It really is wonderful to have the support from everyone,” Silverstein said. “And it’s great to raise money to help support the fight against ALS.”