Linden firefighter shares life lessons amid ALS battle

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 7:44 PM CDT
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MARENGO COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - Lou Gehrig’s disease affects the body’s voluntary muscles and currently has no cure. A volunteer fighter in Linden is currently battling this deadly disease and is using it as an opportunity to share his journey and offer some advice.

Steven Diehl has been a firefighter since 1991. It’s a job he says he finds thrilling.

At a young age, a family member told him fire stories about busting through the blaze, which is what originally made him want to join the force. Now that he’s in uniform, he finds the job even more rewarding.

“Being able to help others has been one of the greatest joys of what I’ve done as a fireman,” said Diehl.

Co-workers noticed Diehl constantly falling and tripping on the job, which led him being sent to a orthopedic doctor.

“I had foot drop and some other things that weren’t consistent with an orthopedic injury. I got sent to neurosurgeon who then diagnosed the ALS,”

Diehl said he knew what ALS was, with first responders being diagnosed at twice the rate as others.

“The fact that we work with all the toxic chemicals. We have lots of hypoxia. We have erratic sleep schedules, erratic work schedules,” said Diehl. “Knowing what the disease was, knowing that there was no other end than where it’s going to go, which is death, that’s what was going through my mind is I’m not going to be here for a lot of stuff,” said Diehl.

While this disease will affect Diehl’s fate, his family was hit hard by the news too. His wife, Michelle Diehl, said they are “pretty much mourning our future because we had this great future planned.” That future once involved traveling and taking care of their grandchildren.

Michelle Diehl now devotes her time to taking care of her husband as they both use their experience to try and help others.

“For those that already have ALS, the only advice I have is to keep fighting,“ said Steven Diehl.

Keep fighting and keep moving was his goal when he was first diagnosed.

Michelle Diehl also had advice for families and caregivers dealing with ALS. She said to spend quality time together, take the time off needed to be there for one another, and remember that when things get hard to remember that it isn’t you or your loved one’s fault. It’s the illness.

Diehl still volunteers with the fire department. He trains future firefighters and shares fire safety information with local schools.

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