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Chris’s Story

as told by Martha, his wife

In December 2021, Chris underwent inguinal hernia surgery, but never fully recovered. He developed muscle twitches and drop foot, which his doctor said was not caused by surgery. He began eating less and less – my estimate was under 700 calories a day. Then Chris began having gall bladder attacks, and in March 2022, needed surgery to remove gall stones.

Post-surgery, his mobility deteriorated and by April 2022, he had his first fall and needed a cane to walk. His back hurt constantly. An MRI showed pinched nerves in his thoracic and lumbar areas so he was was referred to a neuro-surgeon to discuss pain management for a spinal injection and possible back surgery. The pain management doctor required that a nerve conduction study be done prior to an injection to determine the function of his motor and sensory nerves. This would show whether there was nerve damage or a motor neuron disease. The test determined both upper and lower motor neuron damage, so the doctor recommended that Chris see a neurologist. After weeks of extensive testing, the neurologist diagnosed ALS in June and suggested that Chris get a second opinion. Later in June, we went to the ALS Clinic in Charlotte and saw two neurologists who confirmed the ALS diagnosis.

Chris and Martha
Up until a year before the ALS diagnosis, Chris was an athlete and very healthy. He played football and basketball in high school and basketball in college. Throughout his adulthood, he was always active, working out daily at the gym, playing tennis, running, water skiing, or biking long distances.

In July 2022, Chris needed a walker. By August, a manual wheelchair; by the end of August, a powered wheelchair. This all happened so quickly that Chris was trapped inside the house. We were blessed that our church built us a ramp and we were able to buy a used conversion van. We are also blessed by family, friends and a caring community who have done fundraisers, GoFundMe, MealTrain; have given us equipment, supplies and funds. Our daughter relocated from California to help. Family is always here on weekends.

Chris had a major fall in early September sending us to the hospital for immediate surgery due to over 60 pulmonary embolisms. He was hospitalized for 16 days. Even with rehab, Chris did not regain his motor strength, and his first paralysis began in his legs. He began Home Health. By late September he needed a breathing machine during the night. I could no longer care for Chris by myself, so I got a caregiver to assist me. In October he began to have some choking episodes, and his upper body paralysis began. In November, his lung function dropped to 23% and he became mostly paralyzed. He could no longer use his hands except for one knuckle of a thumb. Later that month, he began using the breathing machine most of the day and had surgery for a feeding tube. The feeding tube would allow him to get nutrition. By December 2022, Chris was 100% paralyzed.

Although Chris resisted for months, in January we began hospice care at home. Hospice has been a blessing to us. Since January, his disease progression has slowed, although we deal with weekly challenges — pressure ulcers, skin infections, injuries, as well as a broken motor on the hospital bed. He still has slight head movement and is learning to use an Eyegaze Communication Device to be prepared when he is no longer able to speak. Chris spends as much time as he can sharing stories and teaching his children and grandchildren about music, sports, and technology. He has been coaching me in finances. We all enjoy watching family videos and reminiscing about our many wonderful experiences.

We have seen the hand of God at work through the love and support from our church, friends, and family, and we could not be more grateful. God says that He will never leave us or forsake us, and we are witnesses to that. Our focus is now on heaven.

I am grateful to the many organizations that have helped us obtain durable medical equipment and cash funds to assist us: The ALS Association – SC Chapter, Touched By ALS, Team Gleason, The Healthwell Foundation, The Assistance Fund, ALS Clinic of Greenville, SC, USC- SC Assistive Technology, Spartanburg Regional Hospice, Spartanburg Athletic Club, Sunrise Civitan Club, and St. John’s Lutheran Church.

TBALS’ editor’s note, from the obituary:
Randall “Chris” Sigmon of Spartanburg, SC, age 68, was promoted to glory Saturday, June 17, 2023, in his home surrounded by family after enduring a year-long battle with ALS.