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September 29, 1999






Faith gives McBrides big dose of hope
___By Marv Knox
___Editor
___SAN ANGELO--A crippling disease may be paralyzing Elizabeth McBride's body, but she refuses to allow it to silence her voice in praise of God.
___She suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis--more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease--which eventually could take her life. Yet she looks to the future with gratitude, optimism and courage.
___ALS causes nerve cells and nerve fibers to die. Then, the muscles that normally receive
McBrides
JEROLD & ELIZABETH MCBRIDE
signals from the nerve fibers cease to function. The disease usually starts with muscle weakness and lack of coordination. It eventually causes paralysis and kills its victims by locking the muscles that allow them to swallow and breathe.
___"I've had the disease probably six or seven years," said McBride, whose husband, Jerold, is pastor of First Baptist Church in San Angelo. "I began to fall because I lost balance from my torso up. I lost strength in my arms.
___"The doctors couldn't put a handle on it. It takes awhile for this disease to be diagnosed, they say."
___When a neurologist finally pronounced the verdict in the spring of 1996, "I didn't cry; I probably was in shock," she recalled.
___Later, a second opinion from another doctor set the tears in motion. "That's when we both cried; it really socked us," she said. "But it wasn't the end of the world."
___Even though she lost use of her arms, and her legs have grown progressively weak, McBride has been sustained by her faith, her husband, her church, her friends and a giant dose of hope.
___Despite the ravages of disease, she has not doubted God's goodness. "When you're a Christian, you know he's there," she explained, matter-of-factly. "The Lord is with you; he does care. There are days when I cry, but he's good. ... I have my low moments, but I have my high moments, too."
___Scripture always has been an encouragement, she noted, adding the loss of the use of her hands prompted a unique setback.
___"Before, I always could pick up my Bible at any time. I feel frustrated I can't pick up my Bible when I need it," she said.
___Fortunately, she got a page-turning machine earlier this year, and when her Bible is mounted on it, she can turn pages by puffing on a tube. Still, the Scripture she memorized as a girl always has been available.
___"'In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct thy path,'" she said, quoting Proverbs 3:6. "I learned that verse as a GA (a member of the Baptist girls' missions organization) years ago. It's been a constant source of strength for me."
___Her husband has provided physical and spiritual support every difficult step of her journey, she stressed.
___"We've always had a good marriage," she noted. "Jerold is patient; he doesn't get angry. We both get a little stressed, but we both know the Lord has been good to us.
___"Jerold has done a wonderful job of filling in. He keeps the house up and cooks most of our meals. He didn't really know how to cook before; I never gave him the chance."
___"We already were close, and now we're even closer," he added. "She's always been my best friend. When you love someone, you don't feel as if you've extended yourself or are giving of yourself."
___He has modified his schedule and continues to be able to minister while also caring for his wife. But her biggest frustration in that regard has been the necessity of cutting back on her part of the ministry.
___"Jerold and I always have shared our ministry, and I always had been blessed with strength to help out," she said. "I've had to back off (from ministry activities), and that's been hard."
___Nevertheless, she's free from pain, gets help with transportation and still is able to participate in worship and many other church functions.
___"I don't suppose we could've been at a more wonderful church," she insisted. "They've reached out to us in so many ways."
___Church friends and others have made a somewhat normal routine possible, she said. A retired nurse comes to her house and takes her to physical rehabilitation lessons. Friends drop by their home at noon to feed her. Friends even wash and set her hair twice a week, "so I'm set to go to church."
___The prayers of faithful Christian friends also have made a difference in their lives, she said. "Our church prays for me, friends pray for us, and friends in places where we've gone on mission trips--Brazil, Peru and Russia, all over the world--have prayed."
___Beyond the physical adjustments, McBride's illness has introduced emotional and spiritual changes, she said.
___"It's made me think more seriously about life. Every day," she explained. "I used to take it for granted, but I don't now.
___"We just celebrated our 45th anniversary. We didn't wait for our 50th, because we don't know how bedridden I might become. ... Still, the doctors give you five years to 20 years. We know about an 85-year-old man who has had ALS since he was in his 60s.
___"I've learned to take the days as a gift. You really don't know how many you'll have."
___But the McBrides hope for many, many more.
___She has participated in an experimental-medication program for about 20 months. She's been among the first group of humans to test a medicine that's been proven to grow new nerves in laboratory animals.
___For the first 18 months of the program, she may have received the new medicine, or she may have been part of a control group that was given placebos. Since mid-August, she's definitely been on the real drug.
___"We're hoping she was not receiving the new drug" during the first 18 months, he said. "She showed some deterioration during that time. We're hopeful now, because she has shown some side-effects that were not demonstrated before."
___If the medication works, it could somewhat reverse the nerve and muscle deterioration she has experienced, he said.
___In the meantime, the McBrides are living life as normally as possible. They took a vacation to New England and Nova Scotia this summer. She reads her Bible and magazines on her new page-turner. And they look to the future.
___"Both of us wrestle with not having the time horizon we thought we'd have," he admitted. "We prepared for retirement and planned to go overseas and do missions without cost to anyone. We were so looking forward to missions after we retired."
___"But I guess the Lord has something other for us," she added.
___"The Lord gives you grace the moment you need it," he said of the difficult moments they have and will face.
___"It's a sad day when your body breaks down," she noted. "But it's not the end."

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