08/28/14 — Icy water and warm hearts

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Icy water and warm hearts

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 28, 2014 1:46 PM

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Members of Rosewood Baptist Church, including pastor Mike Collier, center, accept the ALS ice bucket challenge on Wednesday evening.

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Pastor Collier hugs Sue Seaman, a church member with ALS, before the church's ice bucket challenge and fundraiser in her honor.

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Carl Grantham, left, an 82-year-old member of Rosewood Baptist Church, prepares for the ALS ice bucket challenge before Rex Harris douses water on him Wednesday night. The two men had a good-natured rivalry going into the challenge, resulting in their each participating twice.

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Shayla Zamarron, 11, accepts the ALS ice bucket challenge in honor of her great-grandmother.

There are millions of people who have stood, scrunched up with their eyes closed and fists clenched waiting for the deluge of water and ice as part of the ALS ice bucket challenge.

But at Rosewood Baptist Church, the cause is personal. The congregation has a reason to raise money to find a cure for the progressive neurodegenerative disease.

It has struck one of their own.

Church member Sue Seaman, 66, was diagnosed with ALS two weeks before her 65th birthday.

In the time since, husband Ed says, it's been "downhill."

"Eighteen months ago, she was walking just like you and me," he said.

One of the biggest challenges is the difficulty in diagnosing the progressive neurodegenerative disease.

"Sue's was diagnosed as a mini stroke in 2009," Seaman said. "It happened with her voice first. It's gone through her body. Her legs have gotten real weak."

It has also affected her arms and her breathing, and she has difficulty speaking. She relies on a wheelchair for mobility.

But it has not robbed her of other things, like her attitude.

"ALS may steal my body but not my faith, my mind or my wicked sense of humor," she said, breaking into a smile. "I have faced this with, hopefully, dignity and grace.

"I appreciate my church family and love them dearly."

The couple travel to the ALS clinic in Duke every three months, Seaman said, adding that there are five clinics across the state -- others are in Greenville, Winston-Salem, Asheville and Charlotte.

"I tell you, they're the finest people you ever want to meet," he said of the doctors and caregivers at the clinic.

The biggest problem, Seaman explained, is that there have been so few people diagnosed with ALS. Currently, the number being diagnosed is about 5,000 a year.

Mrs. Seaman is optimistic that the more research there is, a cure could be imminent.

"I have a positive attitude, and I have decided to stick around for the cure," she said.

The couple were at the church Wednesday night to witness members of the congregation taking the ice bucket challenge in their honor.

Mike Collier, church pastor, said he took the challenge the previous week and in turn challenged his congregation to do the same this week.

As much fun as it appeared, not all were excited about the possibility of being doused with a bucket of ice water.

"When it all started, you know the saying, 'Don't say what you're not going to do,' because you're going to eat those words," said Donna Little, youth director.

The effort began to snowball, though, and soon congregants got on board with enduring the moments of shivering to honor of one of their own.

"I told the pastor, if we're going to do this, why don't we collect the money for her and make a difference in our community," Mrs. Little said. "She lives with ALS every day."

The church family will collect a love offering for Mrs. Seaman over the next two weeks, as well as donating to the ALS Association.

Nearly three dozen church members, young and old, took part in the ice bucket challenge Wednesday evening, including the Seaman's great-granddaughter, Shayla Zamarron, 11.

The sixth-grader at Rosewood Middle School said her strategy had been to practice with water beforehand. But when the actual moment arrived, nothing prepared her for the "freezing" water that was poured over her.

"Wet socks are the worst thing ever invented," said 15-year-old Casey Raineri, among the youth group members who took part.

Nancy Harris videotaped her husband, Rex, challenged to take part by fellow church member Carl Grantham, 82.

Grantham played up the event, wearing a yellow slicker and carrying a pink umbrella, which he removed before the challenge.

Harris and Grantham wound up going through it twice to extend their good-natured rivalry.

"The second time isn't as bad because you're already conditioned," Harris said.

"No, the second time is worse because you know what's going to happen," Grantham said.

Ed Seaman was also on the receiving end of an ice bucket, but warmed up the crowd when he reminded them of the reason they were there.

"The money that's being taken up, somewhere between 65 and 85 percent will go to grants for research and a cure," he said. "They do not know what causes (ALS) and they do not have a cure. It's just like a death sentence for a criminal and they have no way of treating it. I would just like to say thank you.

"Sue's had it for 18 months and it's been kind of tough at times, but other times she's still got her sense of humor. She still knows how to get on me."

The church also extended several challenges for others to participate in the ice bucket challenge, including all churches in Wayne County and other youth groups.