ALS: Tag Lines and Gag Lines

by Jeff Repetto on Tue, 2004-06-01 07:00

Jeffrey I. Repetto of Culver City, Calif., received the Karen Brown Courage Award at the MDA Gala in Los Angeles in April 2004.

Repetto, a former advertising copywriter, learned he had ALS in August. Five weeks later, he and Kathryn Lundeen were married and honeymooned in Australia. Now 39, he shared his unique perspective on the disease, at the gala.


I come from the world of advertising. In my training, we’re taught to think a little bit differently about things. And since ALS causes paralysis but leaves the mind intact, it gives you a lot of time to think. Maybe too much time.

Jeff and Kathryn Repetto
At MDA's Los Angeles Gala in April, Kathryn and Jeff Repetto were presented with a puppy, which they've named Moose.

After I was diagnosed, the same tag line kept running through my head: “ALS: It’s not just for baseball players anymore.”

And it hasn’t stopped there.

I thought it might be fun, enlightening even, to share some of these random thoughts. Put these thoughts together and you get a snapshot of what my world is like.

  • I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty certain that people who drive sports cars are not handicapped. Why is this important? Because when the last handicapped spot is taken at Ralph’s by a guy with a nice tan driving a 500SL, something isn’t right.
    So, I’ve come up with a plan to solve this nagging social problem. It’s called the handicap face-off. When all the handicapped spots are filled, drivers will be requested to return to their cars for a comparison of ailments.
    ALS always wins.

  • Oprah rocks, but Ellen is funnier. And who watches Maury, Rikki or Montel anyway? And these are just three of the mysteries of daytime TV. Does Bryman College have fraternities? Will you really be happier as a trained dental technician?
    As far as I can tell, daytime TV is designed for women with erectile dysfunction who pay far too much for their car insurance.

  • My wife and I have begun to pay strange men to see me naked. The worst part is, they don’t seem to enjoy it.
    I don’t enjoy it much either — and not for the reason my wife supposes, namely that with my ego I think they should be paying me. Instead, it’s because the presence of our custodial caregivers reflects my increasing helplessness.
    It’s hard to accept assistance with tasks that one used to have a reasonable proficiency with, like eating, bathing and going to the bathroom. Although I will say it’s great to have another Lakers fan in the house.

  • It’s great that we’re here tonight to raise money to find a cure for ALS. We can use every penny.
    In fact, I have a theory: If every dollar used to develop and promote Viagra had instead gone toward ALS research, I’d be getting a prescription from my doctor so I could play tennis with my wife — and some of you would be doing a lot more reading in bed.

  • My wife and I are big shoppers. Here’s just a partial list of what we’ve bought in the last eight months:
    A Dodge Caravan with automatic wheelchair ramp, a hospital bed, three canes, a tall walker, a manual wheelchair, a power wheelchair, a wheelchair lift, a commode chair, a shower chair commode, bed pans, an elevated toilet seat, an elevated toilet seat with arms, four portable urinals, sleep boots, an easy-lift recliner chair, a breathing machine, a cat bag to carry it in, a neck brace, a Hoyer lift, easy-grip silverware, and a male girdle, which I like to call a guydle.
    My new tag line for ALS? “It’s not just a disease, it’s a lifestyle.”

  • Over the last seven years, the friends I made at Dailey and Associates went from co-workers to my second family.
    Just two weeks ago they got together and raised over $23,000 for MDA. And that’s just one small example of the love and support they’ve shown me over the last eight months.
    I used to complain about going to work sometimes, but now I’d give anything to go.

  • Jeffrey Rothstein
    Peter Donnelly, Repetto's best friend, holds the Karen Brown Courage Award that Repetto received at the gala.
  • I was asleep, but now I’m awake.
    I’m awake to how many friends I have, what wonderful people they are, and how much they truly care about me.
    And I’m awake to my family. To my father, who has opened up to me in ways he never has before. To my mother, who has gone to such great lengths to show her love and support. To my sister, who I know would trade places with me in a New York minute.
    My illness is tragic, but it has allowed me to receive gifts of love from those who mean the most to me. If you’re wondering about the meaning of life, it’s simple: To love and be loved. The ultimate wake-up call and my friends and family taught me that.

I don’t deserve a courage award, but I know someone who does.

  • Less than two months after I was diagnosed she stood before friends and family and said these words: “For richer or poorer, for better for worse, in sickness and in health.”
    Never have these words meant so much. My wife, Kathryn, married me knowing what lay ahead. It was an act of loyalty, love and yes, of courage, for which I will never be able to repay her.
    It’s hard to believe, but sometimes ALS stands for “A Lucky Son of a Bitch.”

I want to thank each and every one of you for supporting MDA, because they have supported me. Even with a great company and incredible friends and family to help me there have been many times during this process when Kathryn and I haven’t known where to turn.

But with one call to Morris Lawson [MDA Health Care Service Coordinator in Santa Monica], the appointment would be made, the doctor found, the problem solved.

With your generous support, I know that we will find a cure for this terrible disease. While I am pleased to be here tonight to receive this award, I know that you join me in the fervent hope that I am the last person to be so honored.

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