ALS diagnosis isn’t stopping Lynnwood man

  • Tue Sep 7th, 2010 8:00pm

By Lauren Salcedo Enterprise reporter

LYNNWOOD — When Jeff Hanley was diagnosed with ALS in 2008, his world was turned upside down.

“It’s a pretty devastating diagnosis. I was in shock,” said Hanley, a Lynnwood-based building contractor.

His wife and 20-year-old daughter were also hit hard by the news.

“Everybody was in shock. We got together to talk about what the diagnosis means,” Hanley said. “It’s not a good thing to learn that you only have two to five years to live.”

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative muscular disease. It is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the former Yankees baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 36. On average, those who are diagnosed with ALS have a survival rate of two to five years from the time of diagnosis.

Rather than letting the diagnosis bring him down, however, Hanley made a kind of “bucket list” of things he had always wanted to do.

Hanley and his best friend, Denny Vidmar, have gone on several motorcycle trips regionally.

“When Denny heard about the diagnosis, he suggested we take a motorcycle trip to Ireland, because I am primarily Irish,” Hanley said. Hanley, Denny and two other friends went to Ireland and rented two BMW motorcycles and one car.

“It was a 10-day trip in late May and early June. The weather was perfect — it only rained on the last day and we weren’t riding on that day,” he said.

A motorcycle trip in a foreign country isn’t the only thing that Hanley had on his list of things to complete. Last December, he jumped out of a plane.

“I went skydiving and got a video of it, which was pretty neat,” he said. Again, he went with Denny, his best friend of 35 years.

“We had talked about doing it for years. We decided to go ahead and do it. We did tandem skydiving. They strap you to the front of someone else, so it’s really easy and a lot of fun,” Hanley said. “We flew up to 13,000 feet and at that height you get almost a minute of freefall. That was the thrill I was looking for. That was one of the bucket list items I got to do.”

That wasn’t the only time that he has been flying since being diagnosed.

“I did go for a helicopter ride in April. I’d never been on a helicopter before. We flew over the tulip fields,” he said.

Even though Hanley’s diagnosis is devastating to him and those around him, he is managing to live his life to the fullest and he doesn’t want to miss out on anything.