The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taken social media by storm and for Wayne Reed of Nashville, the challenge is personal.
Reed, 60, has been battling the disease for nearly 30 years, making him one of the longest surviving victims of ALS.
“ALS has not stopped his life. He still goes to church every Sunday; he took a vacation to Florida this summer. He’s in a battle with ALS but it has not stopped him,” said Reed’s good friend, Pat Ward.
“He became a hero in a way none of us wants to become a hero but he has stood the challenge,” she continued.
Reed recently took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge himself.
He told News 2 he is “overwhelmed” by the support the challenge has received and said the awareness can only help those diagnosed in the future.
“The next generation, hopefully, will find a cure,” said Reed.
Reed was diagnosed with the disease when he was just 31 years old.
The former athlete said he is the only person with ALS in his family.
“I’m the lucky one,” laughed Reed.
His primary caretaker was his wife, Diana, until she passed away unexpectedly in October 2012.
The healthy 56-year-old died of fungal meningitis after receiving a series of tainted steroid shots to help alleviate shoulder pain.
Diana Reed became ill five days after her third injection and had to be hospitalized.
“We thought she had meningitis and a bad headache, but we thought she’d get well and come home,” said Ward, who was Diana’s best friend.
But 11 days later, the wife and mother passed away.
Reed was one of many people impacted by the public health crisis. More than 30 others died in the outbreak.
The illness was eventually linked to the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, which later closed.
Reed’s family, like several others, filed a lawsuit. It is still pending and could take years to resolve.
Recently, however, the FBI came to the family’s Nashville home to interview Wayne.
“I think it gave us hope that the FBI is taking this seriously. They seemed to be personally interested in Wayne’s loss and how he is able to continue life and interested in it being so unfair that Diana’s life came to an untimely death,” said Ward.
Reed is now confined to his motorized wheelchair and has difficulty speaking. A caretaker comes to his home daily to help him.
The 60-year-old has faced many obstacles during life, most recently the sudden death of his grown son, yet he continues to face each challenge with courage.
“He never feels sorry for himself through his ALS, through the loss of his wife, through the loss of his son. He still puts others first,” said Ward.
Reed is a constant inspiration to those who know him.
- Nov. 19, 2013: Church members write book honoring meningitis outbreak victim
- Jan. 30, 2013: Woman’s family files lawsuit after fungal meningitis death
- Oct. 4, 2012: Meningitis outbreak claims 3rd victim in Tennessee