News & Stories

Ruth Greiner of Coos Bay, Oregon

Dedicated Teacher, Mother and Grandmother

Ruth was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) at OHSU in 2003 while working as an elementary school teacher in Coos Bay, Oregon. After 31 years of teaching, she was determined to continue despite her diagnosis and was able to complete one more school year before she retired.  

Ruth and her handmade quilt

Originally from Prairie City (population 900) in eastern Oregon – Ruth has always had a keen sense of adventure and had an interest in relocating to the Oregon coast to begin her career. She remembers submitting job applications to all the coastal communities from Brookings to Warrenton and the Coos Bay School District was the first one that called back with a teaching position.  

Her connection to the chapter has been constant through the years and she sees Mary Rebar on a consistent basis at her medical appointments. Rebar has helped Ruth with things like power wheelchairs, advice on travel and caregiving and financial support through our chapter grants program.  

Ruth was very active with the Oregon Education Association (OEA) and the National Education Association (NEA) travelling with some frequency to Washington, D.C.. Even after her diagnosis she continued to stay involved in the Retired Teachers Association. In fact, she recently received a lifetime achievement award from OEA! 

It’s the love of family that keeps Ruth going these days. Her longtime family home is covered in pictures of her daughter Mary and her two grandsons – Chris (age 14) and Carter (age 13). Her daughter Mary says, “Her journey is inspiring because she stays so positive despite the challenges that PLS brings.” She added, “It’s not easy travelling, but we know mom has always enjoyed it and so me and the boys took a road trip with her to go on a Disneyland cruise last year. She loved it.”  

When asked what advice she might have for someone who is newly diagnosed with PLS – having lived it with for over two decades – without missing a beat Ruth said, “Don’t put anything off! Do everything you can while you still can.”  

Ruth’s message is clear – she says PLS is not a death sentence and be grateful and enjoy every day with your family and friends.  

What is PLS?  

Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) is a type of motor neuron disease that causes the nerve cells in the brain that control movement to fail over time. PLS causes weakness in your voluntary muscles, such as those you use to control your legs, arms and tongue. You may experience movement problems, such as difficulty with balance, slow movements and clumsiness. You may eventually experience problems with chewing, swallowing and speaking. 

This rare condition can develop at any age, but it usually occurs between ages 40 and 60 and is more common in males than females. While likely related to ALS, PLS progresses more slowly than ALS and in most cases isn’t fatal. 

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