MDA: Living with ALS - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

MDA: Living with ALS

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day telethon is Monday.

It will air live, as it has for the past three decades, here on WKOW.

The money raised goes to help people with neuro-muscular diseases, such as ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

WKOW's Greg Jeschke introduces us to a local woman who has been helped by your generosity in the past.

Bicycles and tractors used to be a big part of Janet Magsamen's world. ALS changed that three years ago, replacing them with a wheelchair and a voice producing computer.

Walter Magsamen, Janet's husband, says, "She went from hiking the mountains three years ago, and I could hardly keep up. To now, she's able to move her little finger, but that's limited right now."

Janet and her husband found out she had ALS in September of 2007.

Walter adds, "Her speech started to leave, like a bad cold, like she's hoarse."

It wasn't long before ALS had robbed Janet of her ability to eat, and she needed a feeding tube. Ultimately, all her voluntary muscles were effected, resulting in paralysis. But Janet has kept her spirited personality alive, even after moving to hospice care in April.

Walter says, "She is very sharp; phone numbers, where the envelopes are at home... she's been responsible for our family all these years."

Janet and Walter have been married 45-years; they have three children and five grandchildren.

Walter says, "We had a great life, didn't we? We still have a great life. We didn't waste it, not waiting to sit and retire and then do that. It's too late, you can't wait for that."

And, as their final years together have been defined by her disease, MDA support groups and assistance with expensive medical equipment have been important for the Magsamens.

Walter adds, "MDA is very good. We took in these ALS group sessions at the University. It was sort of a new thing."

Janet had one word to explain why she and Walter agreed to share their ALS experience with us: awareness.

Walter says, "We're proud to do things like this, hoping someone else out there will get some help in the future."

In these precious, waning days, Walter and Janet have come full circle, and feel their experience beyond the pain.

Walter says, "All things are good, you can't be selfish and not share your downfalls."

Channel 27 is your official station for the MDA telethon. Our local coverage of this year's event will begin at 6:40 AM Monday.

We will be live throughout the day until 6:00 Monday night from the Madison Marriott West.

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