Facing Winter Together and Fighting as Best as We Can

Facing Winter Together and Fighting as Best as We Can
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It’s been an intense couple weeks of winter weather on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. After a mild January with many sunny days, the first two weeks of February made up for it with over 40 inches of snowfall, along with below-zero to single-digit temperatures.

I had been getting out nearly daily to cross-country ski on our beautiful trails. It helps keep me sane as I care for my husband, Todd, who has ALS and is paralyzed. I try to slip out when his physical therapist or shower aide is here, or when my mom is available to be on call. But lately it’s been too cold with the wind chill, plus the trail groomers have had problems with their equipment and haven’t been keeping up with the snow.

I’ve also had a hard time keeping up with the snow — storm systems followed by lake-effect snow and relentless winds that cause drifting, which blocks our doors and fills the driveway.

Fortunately, we have a tractor with a snowblower attachment, and I can easily stop it and run inside when Todd calls my cellphone for my help.

Kristin cleans up the snow. (Photo by Lani Siirtola)

With the cold temperatures, the tractor’s diesel engine struggles to start, even with a new battery, a block heater to keep the engine warm, and winter additives in the fuel. I coax the engine by keeping the starter engaged and gradually raising the revolutions per minute as it sputters and coughs and then eventually comes to life.

Last week, I got the tractor stuck twice.

The first time, I was trying to widen our driveway, and the tractor slipped off the snow mat. A neighbor across the street noticed my plight and came over to pull me out with his truck.

I got stuck again next door at my mom’s house. Another neighbor tried to pull me out, but his truck got stuck. My mom pulled him out, and then they both pulled my tractor out.

My misadventures continued the next day when I realized the snowblower auger wasn’t moving even when I engaged the power takeoff. Todd guessed that I had broken a sheer bolt, and he coached me in replacing it while I was on a video call with him in his office.

Later that day, my neighbor stopped by to borrow the tractor, because he needed to widen his driveway. But he got his truck stuck, again, at the end of our driveway cutting the corner a little too close. I pulled him out with the tractor.

The temperatures dropped further, and my mom got stuck plowing her driveway. I was going to pull her out with the tractor, but it wouldn’t turn over, and I drained the battery trying. Another neighbor pulled my mom out, and then he came to help me jump-start the tractor, but the hood was frozen shut. We ran a hose with hot water from our utility room to melt the ice around the seal and he was able to jump it.

I’m thankful for the support of those who came to our aid. I felt camaraderie with my neighbors, facing this winter together. I also felt a sense of accomplishment in battling through a rough patch of winter.

The hard part about ALS is there is no getting through for our loved ones. We need ongoing support to meet the overwhelming needs. For families facing ALS, winter only gets more difficult. We are all persevering through extreme conditions that don’t let up. But there is victory in doing the best we can.

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Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.

Kristin Neva is an author, mother of two, and caregiver for her husband, Todd, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2010 when he was 39 years old. Knowing they would need family support, they moved to Upper Michigan and built an accessible home on property next to Kristin’s childhood home. Kristin enjoys spending time outdoors, especially on the shore of Lake Superior in the summer. Todd no longer has use of his limbs, but he stays active working on projects on his computer using adaptive technology. They try to find joy in the midst of sorrow as Todd’s health declines.
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Kristin Neva is an author, mother of two, and caregiver for her husband, Todd, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2010 when he was 39 years old. Knowing they would need family support, they moved to Upper Michigan and built an accessible home on property next to Kristin’s childhood home. Kristin enjoys spending time outdoors, especially on the shore of Lake Superior in the summer. Todd no longer has use of his limbs, but he stays active working on projects on his computer using adaptive technology. They try to find joy in the midst of sorrow as Todd’s health declines.

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