Super Bowl-winning Ravens LB O.J. Brigance embraces his ALS fight

May 26, 2015 - als

Last summer, a Ice Bucket Challenge brought widespread courtesy to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a illness that is best famous as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The videos that seemed to go adult by a notation all summer long—people carrying buckets of ice H2O poured on to their heads as they challenged others to do a same and present income to ALS investigate efforts—brought a grin to a face of O.J. Brigance. But afterwards again, it’s not mostly that Brigance, a Super Bowl-winning linebacker for a Baltimore Ravens who was diagnosed with ALS in 2007, isn’t smiling.

Even as he’s mislaid a ability to travel and pronounce over a final 8 years, Brigance, 45, seems to have never stopped smiling. He shows adult to work 5 days a week as a Ravens’ comparison confidant for actor engagement, arrangement all those around him what it means to pull on.

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“When we perceived my diagnosis behind in 2007, my mother Chanda and we were stunned,” Brigance says around email. “We initial had to investigate accurately what was ALS? We detected it was a deadly illness with no cure. we didn’t splash or smoke. we lerned my physique religiously, so there was no approach this could be happening. The normal augury for ALS is dual to 5 years to live from onset.”

The usually inkling Brigance, who late from a NFL in 2003, had that something was wrong was a detriment of strength in his right arm he felt while personification racquetball. Chanda beheld while O.J. was sleeping one night that some of his muscles were, as she described, “jumping.” After going by a array of tests, Brigance was given a diagnosis that altered his life forever.

“It was a tough tablet to swallow that we could be passed by my 40th birthday!” Brigance says. “Chanda and we distressed and cried during a possibility. When we were finally means to perspective a conditions by a eyes of faith, we satisfied any impulse in a lives had prepared us to be good witnesses of vital life to a fullest, regardless of a circumstances. We dusty a tears and asked God, ‘What do You wish us to do with this,’ and a Brigance Brigade Foundation was born.”

The substructure strives to assistance those who’ve perceived a ALS diagnosis understanding with a illness as best they can by aiding them with a financial weight that lands on ALS patients when they need wheelchairs, vans and other equipment. Brigance needs a ventilator to breathe. He communicates by a mechanism with an electronic voice. The mechanism marks a transformation of his pupils, permitting him to form with his eyes.

Brigance realized, as bad as he was suffering, others vital with ALS might have it even tougher, since they might not have a financial means to urge their peculiarity of life.

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“It was in 2008 that we found purpose in a midst of ALS,” Brigance said. “My initial fulfilment was a height we had been given as a veteran contestant could be really fitting to lifting recognition about ALS. Secondly, we detected a unreasonable costs to live with ALS, even if one would select to take life prolonging measures, such as going on a ventilator. That is when we motionless to lift income to assistance PALS (people vital with ALS) and their families to squeeze a durable apparatus and services to assistance with day to day vital with ALS. We have awarded communication devices, wheelchairs, home generators, built ramps and supposing home nursing care. All with a purpose of assisting PALS have a really best peculiarity of life possible. we am really unapproachable of what we have accomplished, however there are so many others who need help. That is since we will continue to find support from everybody we can hold to residence a need.”

The Brigance Brigade only hosted a second annual 5.7K Championship Run (5.7 since 57 was Brigance’s jersey series with a Ravens). More than 1,400 participants lifted $175,000.

“We wanted to pattern a signature eventuality to assistance support a goal to equip, inspire and commission those vital with ALS,” Brigance says. “We have garnered extensive support in a comparatively brief time. The Foundation is really thankful. We have been sanctified to assistance others.”

Photo: Heinz Kluetmeier/SI

Brigance’s bravery is on arrangement during a Ravens’ formidable any day when he shows adult to work. For as many as ALS has taken divided from a male who done a really initial tackle in Super Bowl XXXV—a blowout win over a Giants—Brigance seems to never stop smiling. Ray Lewis, a Ravens’ former defensive personality and a male who took honour in his ability to motivate others, did not bashful divided from regulating Brigance as an instance of impassioned mental toughness. In a video taken during a 2013 playoffs, when a Ravens were on their approach to another Super Bowl title, Lewis had Brigance in a locker room, in front of a whole team.

“He’s a instance of what it means to be faced with essential circumstances,” Lewis said, indicating to his possess temple. “And since of your mindset we can live by anything.”


In his standard self-effacing way, Brigance downplays a purpose he plays with a Ravens: “I don’t have a job, we found a passion. we have an event to pronounce into a lives of some unusual men. They have supposing me encouragement, adore and support from day one of my diagnosis. And we can’t contend adequate about a Ravens classification for their observance and provision. The group has been a blessing to us so that we can be a blessing to others.”

While clearly moving others, Brigance has his possess impulse in his mother of 22 years.

“Chanda didn’t pointer adult for this, though has stood by my side with invariable strength and fortitude,” Brigance says. “ALS isn’t easy for a chairman who has it or a family members. It is a extensive scapegoat to be a caregiver. we am over beholden to have her as my wife.”

He also says that vital with ALS has helped him comprehend some of what he calls, “shortcomings” in relations he had not cared for scrupulously while posterior some of his personal goals.

“Time is a one thing that is not redeemable,” Brigance says. “Once it is left it is gone. We should make a many of any impulse in a relations and life goals.”

It’s been a challenge, though Brigance still smiles.

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