PUNTA GORDA — December marks four years since Punta Gorda resident Cheryl Teribury was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Recently, she has been getting much-needed help thanks to strangers who became good friends.
Kathi and Ben Haynie read about her plight in The Daily Sun in February.
“I knew we had to do something,” Kathi Haynie said. “God wanted us to do something.”
They contacted Teribury and offered their assistance.
Ben Haynie is a contractor who works full-time, but for several hours each Saturday he’s been at Teribury’s father’s house in Punta Gorda, making improvements to the house.
Kathi Haynie said the work might be finished in time for Thanksgiving.
The 1,000-square-foot house is old and in need of repairs. Teribury has been living in a small room at the front of the house. The front door opens to it, so she lacks privacy. There isn’t room for a bed, and she’s been sleeping in a recliner.
The doorways are narrow, and the mechanical wheelchair she now uses didn’t fit through the old doorways.
Teribury is still able to use a walker, but it won’t fit through the one bathroom in the main part of the house, unless she turns the walker sideways.
A half-bath was in the sunroom at the rear of the home, but that room wasn’t insulated. However, it provided ample size and could be converted into a comfortable living room, bedroom and bath area, which became the renovation area for the Haynies’ home makeover.
Teribury’s son Joseph, who has been in the plumbing industry for some two decades, quit his job in Maryland when his mother needed him to help her and his grandfather. He was soon hired by a local plumbing company, and he has since redone the sunroom bathroom that now has a wheel-in shower.
Meanwhile, Ben Haynie added insulation to the sunroom, removed windows, put up walls, and basically redesigned the inside of the house so that Teribury would be able to leave for her doctor appointments.
A ramp will lead to her van with a wheelchair lift; she traded her car to buy the second-hand vehicle, but recently the van has been having transmission problems.
In mid-November, the former sunroom was nearing completion. The final step would be to put in flooring; Teribury’s son will do the installation.
Teribury, who is now in her early 60s, moved to Punta Gorda from Maryland a couple of years before her diagnosis to help care for her father, Theodore, who is now in his early 90s.
She moved into his house, which also became her home. Meanwhile, she found what she called her “dream job” at Lee Health, thinking “it would be the last job until I retired.”
But a diagnosis came after she suffered several symptoms including weakness in her hand, and neck pain. After seeing several specialists, the diagnosis came, and she discovered the normal life expectancy is two to five years after an ALS diagnosis.
She continued to work for a year or so after her diagnosis, but the illness took its toll and she had to quit and go on Social Security disability, as a person with ALS is considered 100% disabled.
Teribury’s health continues to decline, but now with a room of her own at the back of the house, she will have an easier time getting around.
For the Haynies, their work doesn’t end with the completion of Teribury’s home makeover.
“I want to let you know of another ‘project’ I have taken on in an effort to help Cheryl and the Florida ALS foundation,” Kathi Haynie said.
The foundation has initiated a “90 in November” challenge which is through Facebook and consists of participants running, walking or cycling 90 miles in the month of November.
“As a runner and knowing that the money will stay in Florida and directly help Cheryl, I was compelled to do it, even though the most I have ever run in a month was 45 miles,” Kathi Haynie said.
“My individual goal was to raise $2,000, and so far I have gotten to $1,200,” she said.
Kathi Haynie has two other friends taking the challenge as well.
The challenge ends on Nov. 30 — Kathi Haynie’s birthday.
“I want to reach out to anyone in the vicinity of Punta Gorda and invite them to come and do the final three miles with me on the 30th.”
So far, several have responded, with one coming from Clearwater and another from Naples.
“Cheryl will join up at the Harborwalk trail end to ‘ride’ in her chair with us on the final mile,” Kathi Haynie said.
ALS has also affected the Haynie family; several years ago Ben lost his brother to the disease.
Those who would like to help Cheryl Teribury can go to her link for “90 in November” at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/281664076834035, and Cheryl’s own GoFundMe website is at: gofundme.com/f/Home-renovationswheel chair-van-for-cheryl or https://gofund.me/cef92e75.
To learn more about the disease and area resources, visit The ALS Association Florida Chapter website at: https://www.als.org/florida/local-care-services.