Sitting on a wall with her two young kids in Richmond city centre’s tiny Lang Park, Susanna Garrido tries to recall the sound of her mother’s voice.
But it’s not there and, no matter how deep she delves, Garrido just can’t place it.
Her mom, Maria Garrido, was lost to her family almost 10 years ago at the hands of debilitating disease ALS, but she lost her ability to speak several years before that.
“It’s an illness that kind of makes the whole family feel like it has it,” Garrido told the Richmond News.
“We’re Latin and the mom is the centre of the household; she was at the heart of it all and to see her deteriorate, losing her ability to speak…
“She passed away 10 years ago in June, but I can’t even remember what she sounds like.”
Despite the pain, Garrido will try to remember the shining light that her mom was when she steps out at the annual fundraising Walk to End ALS in Richmond on June 1 at Garry Point Park.
As she knows first-hand the challenges faced by those suffering from the rare disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and those that care for them.
From the day her mom was diagnosed, it took the disease four years to end her life, a relatively short time for those afflicted with ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that affects the person’s muscles, resulting immobilization within two to five years of the initial diagnosis.
There is no known cause or cure yet.
“My parents moved to the Lower Mainland from Chile in the ‘70s,” explained Garrido, who’s on the volunteer committee for the Richmond Walk to End ALS.
“My parents moved back to Chile for retirement and we moved back with them. But when she was diagnosed in Chile, it was decided she move back here and my father, my sister and myself all quit our jobs in Chile to care for her here.
“It’s very difficult to diagnose; it went from being a brain tumour to malformation in her spinal cord to vitamin deficiency. After a year, she was finally diagnosed.
“Then another three years to take her away. She lost her muscle function, she lost the use of her hands, legs and then it progressed from there.”
Once her mom was diagnosed, Garrido called the ALS Society in B.C. and they said to get “her here as soon as you can…everything is available to you and we will help you out as much as we can.”
“After losing my mom, I started to get more involved with the society,” said Garrido of her decision to volunteer for the society nine years ago.
“I needed to just give back. (At the society) we’ve all lost someone to ALS and it’s such a close community,” she added.
“It’s a devastating illness to everyone. So it’s kind of nice to be surrounded by people who know how you’re feeling.”
The Richmond Vancouver Walk to End ALS takes place at 10:30 a.m. June 1 at Garry Point Park (registration at 9 a.m.).
The walk raises money to help fund equipment loan programs across B.C. and patient services.
For more information on the event and how to donate, email RichmondVancouverWalk@ALSbc.ca.
Another event in Richmond in aid of ALS is on June 10, when the 14th Annual PGA of BC Golfathon for ALS takes place at Richmond Golf and Country Club.
During the month of June, golf professionals across the province will golf from sunrise to sunset to support those living with ALS.
And to raise awareness and funds for the ALS Society of BC, they will golf as many holes as possible.
The Richmond club is one of over 30 golf courses located across B.C. participating in the event, with local pros Robbie Woods and Graham Ogden teeing up at sunrise.
Proceeds from the golfathon provide crucial support services to ALS patients and their families, friends and caregivers.
You can donate online at GolfAthonForALS.com.