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“I hope that other people with ALS will see – don’t give up. Don’t just sit in your room and do nothing. You can still live. Just go out there and live.”

U.S. Navy Veteran Scott Gallen had been experiencing unfamiliar symptoms for about a year and a half before he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) in the summer of 2019.

PVA helped the father of four get his benefits processed quickly. “I got diagnosed on the 29th of the month,” he recalls. “By the first of the next month, I had my benefits.”

Research has shown that Veterans – particularly those who served in the Gulf War – are about twice as likely to be diagnosed with ALS. PVA has developed a streamlined expertise to process their paperwork quickly so they can access the healthcare, adaptive housing and vehicle grants, and medical equipment they need to live comfortably.

After his diagnosis, Scott continued his life of service by keeping active as a volunteer service officer with the VA until he was physically unable to do the work. He also became very active with the PVA Colonial Chapter by performing advocacy work, spreading the word about PVA’s mission, and attending numerous events with the chapter.

“Any time that I can get out to help spread the word of what PVA offers, I am definitely going to be there to tell my story, what PVA has done for me, and what they can do for other Veterans,” says Scott. “PVA really does help us.”

In addition to helping him acquire the wheelchair he needs and his van to accommodate it, PVA has helped Scott obtain other equipment that will help him live more independently as the disease progresses.

“I’ve got every kind of contraption you could possibly imagine. I have an eye gaze that helps me read and write messages with my eyes that will be compatible with my wheelchair, so when the time comes that I can’t use my hands anymore, I can control the wheelchair with my eyes. I really want for nothing,” says Scott.

Well aware of the progressive nature of ALS, Scott began making memories early on. He took a trip to Hawaii with his family – which, given the difficulty passengers with disabilities have with air travel, was not easy – but, it was important to Scott not to let the disease keep him from living life.

He then decided to create a “Bucket List” of things he really wishes he can experience during his life.

When we became aware Scott was working on his Bucket List, we wanted to help. We sat down with him recently to ask about his adventures so far, see what he is planning, and get a sense of how he’s feeling about his journey so far.

 

How is the list coming along? Who is helping you with your goals?

Mostly family is helping me. PVA is helping as well. When [the Colonial Chapter] went to Annapolis recently, we crashed a Maryland Delegates party to do some karaoke, so we were able to cross a couple things off. And I just went to the Philadelphia Orchestra in a tux!

My brother plans on going swimming with the sharks with me. And Kim and I are going on a cruise at the end of May to Nova Scotia to, hopefully, see the northern lights.

That would be cool!

I know they say the best time is wintertime, and we’re going in the summer. But my fingers are crossed, and if we don’t see them we’ll just do some day drinking and people watching!

Are you out and about frequently with the Colonial Chapter?

When they have an event, I try to get out there … every time. PVA is incredible. After you get diagnosed you kind of feel like your life is over. You can’t do the things that you used to, and a lot of people give up on life. But PVA allows you to try different types of sports and activities and get out there with people, which is what you really need.

Your passion for life, and your attitude – it’s infectious.

This is going to sound crazy – but I feel like this disease was heaven-sent for me because of the people I’ve been able to meet.

I think without this disease, I would have never been able to become the person that I am now. It’s opened my eyes up to so many different things, and it’s made me a better person. I don’t want ALS, but I’m grateful for the outlook and what kind of dad and person I’ve been able to become. I try to extend that to every single person that I meet. I go out of my way to be obnoxiously happy every single day, and I think it wears off on people.

That’s a wonderful legacy to leave to the world.

That’s exactly what I hope. I hope when my time comes – and I still have quite a few more shenanigans to get through – that people remember for me for the good-heartedness that I bring to every day. I hope I rub off as on as many people as I possibly can.

I hope that other people with ALS will see – don’t give up. Don’t just sit in your room and do nothing. You can still live. Just go out there and live.

 

U.S. Navy Veteran Scott Gallen’s Bucket List

 

  1. Fly
  2. Hang glide
  3. Surf
  4. Shake the hand of a President
  5. Visit the Great Wall of China
  6. Swim the Barrier Reef
  7. Crash a wedding
  8. See the Pyramids
  9. See a hot air balloon festival
  10. Fly over the Grand Canyon
  11. Go White water rafting
  12. Act in a play or movie
  13. Watch a sunset in the Florida Keys
  14. Swim with the sharks
  15. Bungee jump
  16. Visit Mount Rushmore
  17. Visit Yellowstone
  18. Halo jump
  19. Own a restaurant
  20. Own a ‘68 or ‘69 Camaro
  21. Live on the beach
  22. Revisit my old command
  23. See the tree lighting in NYC
  24. Take a scenic train ride through the country
  25. Play in a pool tournament
  26. Visit all 50 States
  27. See the Northern lights
  28. Visit the Colosseum
  29. Visit the leaning tower of Pisa
  30. See an active volcano
  31. Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  32. Give someone a $100 tip for Christmas
  33. Go on an African safari
  34. Boat ride on the Nile
  35. Take a gondola ride
  36. Visit Italy
  37. Go to a luau
  38. Visit Pearl Harbor
  39. Rock a karaoke night
  40. Go to the orchestra in a tux
  41. Visit Vegas
  42. Fly first class
  43. Try amateur comedy night
  44. See the fountains in Vegas
  45. Go on a cruise 
  46. Visit Fort Tortuga
  47. Zip line over Fremont St
  48. Take random flight at spur of the moment
  49. Go camping across the country
  50. TBD…

 

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