“We’re remaining hopeful & determined to put up a fight. Right now, we’re trying to enjoy life & spend as much quality time together as possible.”
Diagnosed with ALS on August 18, 2011
If you know Michelle, you’ll know she’s not one to toot her own horn, but her husband can’t wait to tell you how much he admires his wife. He shares that Michelle graduated Valedictorian of her class in 1984 at Immaculata High School in Leavenworth, KS. An avid athlete, Michelle participated in volleyball, basketball and track and still holds Immaculata’s high jump and long jump records. She could have attended the University of Kansas on a volleyball scholarship, but the self-proclaimed “army brat” chose an Army ROTC scholarship to Notre Dame, receiving her Bachelor in Government in 1988. Following, she served her country for four years as an Army Transportation Officer stationed in Germany.
Michelle met the love of her life Paul, a KU graduate and Trinity High School alum from Hutchinson, KS, at KU’s Graduate School of Business while pursuing her MBA. Careers brought them to Kansas City, MO where they married and settled in the Brookside area. Michelle and Paul plan to renew their wedding vows for their upcoming 15th Anniversary.
“Ours is a real opposites attract relationship,” says Paul. “Michelle is so smart, pragmatic, confident, calm and thoughtful. I can honestly say that I’ve never heard her utter a petty word about someone else. The world would be a much better place with more people like Michelle in it.” He fondly refers to her as “Wonder Woman” for carrying their now 9-year-old twins, Hayley and Sydney, a full 38 ½ weeks while holding down her job as Director at H&R Block. Hayley was born 8 lbs., 4 oz. and Sydney weighed 6 lbs, 11 oz. at birth – that’s 15 pounds of baby! Determined to have one parent home with the girls, Paul started his own home-based IT consulting business and Michelle continued working full-time. “Our girls look up to her with such great respect and she is truly their role model.”
Michelle continues to work in her current role as Vice President, Client Services for USA 800 and is enjoying knitting and crafts with her daughters. Something near and dear to her heart, she is part of a monthly group that sends care packages to deployed troops. In the last four years Michelle has personally raised $8,000 walking in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in honor of her mother, a breast cancer survivor. Up until recently, Michelle found every opportunity to play volleyball, and ironically, it was on the court that she first felt a funny feeling in her left foot.
Moving Mountains for Michelle
After the initial shock of the ALS diagnosis, Paul says his thoughts turned to fears of financial uncertainty, “and will we end up in the streets someday soon?” He found a job in the IT department at the University of Kansas Medical Center, because up until now, Michelle was the main breadwinner in the house.
Michelle is receiving tremendous support from her employer and co-workers participated in the local Keith Worthington Chapter ALS Walk as team “Michelle’s Mateys.” USA 800 sent the family on an all expenses paid trip to Disney World in October and has committed to keep Michelle working as long as possible.
St. Peter’s Catholic Parish and School dedicated its 2011 Mom’s Volleyball Tournament to Michelle, also donating $500 to the Mellands. A team of engineers, architects, contractors and skilled craftsmen from the parish, Knights of Columbus and Boy Scouts are undertaking a huge renovation of the Melland home to make it wheelchair compatible, potentially saving the family $50,000 in remodeling expenses. It is estimated the costs of non-donated goods and services will climb to over $20,000.
Join Michelle’s Mateys
Michelle, Hayley, Sydney and Paul are so humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love, care, support, meals, trips, child care and other gifts offered by their communities near and far and from those they have never met. Family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances continue to ask how they can help.
The family’s most immediate concern is completing the updates to their home. Expenditures will mount in the future as the inevitable needs for motorized equipment, transportation, therapy and full-time care arise.
As one of Michelle’s Mateys, I encourage you to visit the links provided here to learn more about this debilitating disease and how you can help Michelle maintain the same quality of life we enjoy today.
Please help by donating to the construction fund today
Comments or questions are welcome.