A Father’s Dream Comes True Despite ALS

My name is Denise Hatfield, and I have been married almost 39 years to the love of my life. We share two beautiful sons, and two amazing grandsons. Rick and I are each others rock, and when he was diagnosed with ALS, my world turned upside down. For 39 years he has been by my side. He has always provided for me. I can’t imagine life without him in it. We do everything together and I will fight this battle to the end and then some. Hoping in his lifetime and in others, I can make a difference.

My husband is a mechanic for big rigs. In January of 2015 he started noticing his hands getting weaker at work. By June he was dropping things.

We took him to the doctor thinking it was maybe carpal tunnel, but I noticed the muscle mass loss in him and the difference in his speech. So we went to a neurologist. He was diagnosed with ALS early, but progressed fast. By October he was out of work.

For six years, he had been building a ’57 Chevy from the frame up. It had been his ultimate dream since he was a kid. So after being off work he decided he had to get his car finished. He worked as much as he could, but got weaker by the day. Our two sons helped around the house, when not working to help him finish this project. We finally sent the car out for a paint job. My husband was still driving but getting weaker every day.

On Rick’s birthday in January, the car was delivered back to our house. That same day his license expired and could not be renewed due to his hindered driving ability. He was devastated. All this work, money, time – and his dream – would end.

However, our youngest son took the car and had the rest completely finished, down to the wheels, interior, everything. When my husband got the car back it was beautiful, so I entered him in a car show. We were praying that his work would pay off.

Our son drove him there, and waited hours for the judges to look at over 350 cars. My husband’s car, the ’57 Chevy, was pulled into car spot they assigned him, the mileage  turned to 57 miles. In the meantime, my son pushed my husband in his wheelchair all over the place looking at other cars, because he was too weak to walk.

The smile on Rick’s face when they told him he won was worth a million dollars. We all cried. Our son drove up to the finish line for all to see, but right before they took the picture, they let my son and husband change seats, so Rick was in the driver’s seat of his own car. Our family is close, but the bond between my husband and sons is so heart warming. This day gave him hope.

The next weekend my family came from Ohio to visit, and surprised us with a wedding vow renewal. We will be married 39 years.

11 comments

  1. Oh my … Denise! This wonderful true life story is such an inspiration for all ! Prayers and good things, always and forever, for you and your loving family.

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  2. Denise, my husband also was a mechanic for 35 years, rising to service manager. He was diagnosed just last September but has had symptoms since July two years ago. Yes, we too went the carpal tunnel route. and then to a neck specialist thinking he had pinched nerves. Finally to University of MI health center where he received his final diagnosis after going thru treatment for MMN. Good luck to you and your family…I amso glad that the boys are ,close.

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  3. What a lovely story. My father passed from ALS in December 2015. He was a car guy and used to enjoy going to the racetracks, car shows, and visiting car museums. My dad also owned cars that were kept; he always took the best care of them, as he did mine. Dad was a gifted mechanic and just loved to tinker with them. Unfortunately, my dad stopped driving not too long after his ALS diagnosis in November 2014. Despite this sad time, my husband would take him on car rides in his Mustang and continue to watch the races with him on tv. By doing these little things, my dad was able to momentarily forget about his ALS and enjoy himself for that brief period of time.

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  4. Hi Denise, this is one of the finest stories I have ever read in my life. I truly believe that the moment when Rick was given the driver’s seat to drive up to the finish line, the feeling would have surely been exceptional. My father was diagnosed with ALS, when I was 10. Though we did not win the battle, the journey of the fight taught me a lot. More importantly, it taught me that of all the virtues one can ever learn in life, self-belief and hope can always help you go that one extra mile with your loved ones.

    Loads of luck and love for you and your family. 🙂

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    1. Thank you. It’s hard watching this still incredible man, not be able to drive his pride and joy. But our son takes him out. Si he gets to ride in it. Blessing to you also

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