GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 7, 2013

Insights and Outbursts: 'Officer needs assistance'

Insights and Outbursts
Eileen Ford

---- — Thanks to Louie Hollander, a dedicated transit police retiree who keeps the rest of us informed via e-mail newsletters, I recently received a “10-13” (Officer needs assistance) message followed by a letter from Leonard Crawford, who worked for the New York City Transit Police Department and the New York City Police Department after the merger of the two for 20 years.

He is 48 years old, and he and his wife Georgina live in Smithtown, N.Y., with their two children, Lenny, 17, and Rebecca, 13.

Recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Lenny explained the emotional and financial effects of the illness:

“ALS is a terminal disease with no known cure and a life expectancy of 2-5 yrs, from date of diagnosis. Over time, a person suffering from this disease will lose the use of their arms, hands and legs. They will lose the ability to swallow, talk and breathe.

“Many ALS patients will only be able to move their eyes to communicate. ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic, or socio-economic boundaries. The costs to families providing for a family member with ALS can be upwards of $125,000 to 150,000 a year.

“In the end, it leaves families not only grieving the loss of a family member, but at a financial loss also … On Sunday, Sept. 22, at 9:30 a.m., the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter is holding its annual Walk to Defeat ALS at Eisenhower Park. The ALS Association provides ALS centers, support groups, assistive equipment, family and patient programs, research, clinical trials and many other resources to assist the ALS community.”

For those unable to walk, Lenny asked for $5 or $10 donations in checks made out to “ALS Association Greater New York Chapter” sent to the following address:

Leonard Crawford, 12 Parnell Drive, Smithtown, N.Y. 11787

There are many “good causes” out there, and I know I’m not the only one who can’t afford to donate to all of them — but no police officer, active or retired, can ignore a “10-13” call.

I retired from the Transit Police Department long before the merger with NYPD and never met Lenny, but several years ago, a dear friend of mine died of ALS.

Florence lived in an assisted living complex in Sparkhill, N.Y., and when I visited my family on Long Island or in the Bronx, I often visited her, once spending the night sleeping on a recliner in her living room. I last saw her in 2009, when Elaine came up from Georgia and Dorothy from New York and we spent a few hours with Florence. We also called Ann in Florida, so four old friends from the Bronx could be together once again.

I cannot imagine what Lenny and his family are going through right now and all I can do, other than a small donation to the ALS Association, is to keep them in my thoughts and prayers.

But by forwarding this “10-13” to police officers and their families and friends on Cape Ann, I believe that he and his family will be supported by prayers as well as donations from those who can afford to help.

After I received Lenny’s permission to share his story, including his e-mail address — lenngee2000@yahoo.com — he was selected for a clinical trial at Massachusetts General Hospital. The trial drug Mexiletine is a heart arrhythmia medication that has increased lifespan in lab mice with ALS. His participation in the study began Aug. 26 and will consist of four one day a month visits to MGH.

Thank you for listening to Lenny’s story — and for passing this information on to others.

Eileen Ford, who lives in Rockport and is a regular Times columnist, is a retired officer with the New York Transit Police Department.