News & Stories

Donna Bogardus: US Navy Veteran Finds Strength in ALS Northwest Community 

I met Donna and Brian Bogardus while settling into their new 55 and older community in Fairview, Oregon. Both are US Navy veterans, who recently moved from Klamath Falls to be closer to Donna’s medical team. Their home is already decorated with memorabilia of their life together, including beautiful ratan furniture from their time in southeast Asia, and an assortment of jigsaw puzzles – a beloved pastime for the couple.  

Donna was born in New Jersey, one of five siblings. Her father was a seaplane pilot, which led to childhood adventures such as living in Puerto Rico for two years while he shuttled tourists around the surrounding islands. Knowing her parents didn’t have money for college, Donna joined the Navy at age 18. At bootcamp in the 1970’s, Donna met a fellow aviation electronics technician, Brian, and quickly fell in love. Together, the couple moved to Guam, where they lived and worked for 3 years. Donna and Brian married in Guam in 1976, and enjoyed an adventure-packed honeymoon in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines.  

After they returned to the states, Donna and Brian lived all over the place- Mississippi, Virginia Beach, and, ultimately Aiken, South Carolina, where they put down roots for thirty years. Their world was shaken when Donna was diagnosed with ALS in June 2023. The news was especially devastating because Donna’s sister, Sandy, died from ALS nine years earlier. The rapid decline of Sandy’s health, culminating in her passing a mere five months after diagnosis, deeply affected Donna and her family.  

Note: A small percentage of ALS cases, around 5-10%, are categorized as familial ALS (FALS), where the disease is inherited within families due to specific genetic mutations. The majority of ALS cases are considered sporadic, with no clear genetic link. 

Donna says ALS Northwest is a beacon of support for her now, providing emotional support through support groups and home visits, while also ensuring Donna’s safety with the provision of a walker via our Medical Equipment Loan Program. When Donna and Brian moved across the state recently, an ALS Northwest Helping Hands volunteer even helped them unpack boxes and organize their new home! 

Donna has survived breast cancer, and now lives with ulcerative colitis and ALS. It’s not easy, but she knows that maintaining a healthy sense of humor is crucial. During our conversation, even though Donna was sharing the immense grief that comes with reflecting on being diagnosed with the same disease that afflicted her late sister, she found humor and moments to laugh. Donna reflects, “You make adjustments, and you go on. You just have to. I will keep going as long as I can.” Her gratitude for the support of the ALS community, fostered through active participation in support groups and ALS Family Day gatherings, stands as a testament to the vital role of community and camaraderie in navigating challenging circumstances. 

Resources for people with ALS:

ALS Care Services

Resources for Military Veterans  

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