CONCORD, N.C. — A young mother of five is in desperate need of help. Meghan Rizzo of Concord was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease last year and within six months of her diagnosis, Meghan's ability to walk and talk was robbed from her.
Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS, is a rare and devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It doesn’t have a cure and many people will only live a few years past the diagnosis.
Snack time looks very different in Meghan Rizzo’s house these days. Instead of it being in the kitchen, 4-year-old Gianna sits at the foot of her mom’s bed. The conversation is the same, but when Meghan asks Gianna what flavor candy her favorite is, she asks through her eye gaze device.
ALS has altered every aspect of her life.
"I’ve seen ALS take away her speech, I’ve seen it take away her ability to be mobile at all," said Kim Hester, Meghan’s friend. "I've seen most everything taken away from her from this."
She calls it her lifeline. Using her eyes, she can track across a keyboard on the screen in front of her and the machine will read it out loud.
"It's hard to watch because you know nothing is going to change," said Dylan Rizzo, her son. "Nothing is going to let up or get better, it’s just going to continuously get worse."
Meghan was diagnosed in May 2018 and the disease advanced quickly. She can't eat or breathe without machines and requires around the clock care.
“The need here is tremendous,” says Maryann Strickland, a family friend.
A GoFundMe has been set up by friends to pay for a full-time nurse, medical costs, a handicapped van and to help make ends meet at home.
The family says it takes a village to get everything done. Her kids’ lives have also been brought to a screeching halt.
"Every day is different," Meghan’s daughter Alexas Burnett said. "You don’t know what’s going to happen, what new is going to be wrong, what’s not going to work the next day. It’s hard."
Her five kids say Meghan has always been a hands-on mom. Growing up, they used to go to NASCAR races and on camping trips. They call their mom their best friend.
“At 3 a.m. we would always go to McDonald's and get milkshakes and just hang out all the time," Burnett said. "To lose that and not be able to do those things, it sucks."
This past weekend was a huge family milestone. Her oldest child, Dylan, got married. Meghan refused to sit on the sidelines and although it took a lot of effort, she was there.
“That’s all we were really looking forward to, was for her to get out and be there,” Dylan said.
It was a happy memory to break up the battle they've been on this past year.
“It makes you think of things you take for granted like walking through a grocery store together or getting in the car to go somewhere," he said. "It makes you think."
Despite what her body has been through, Meghan's mind is still there. Through the frustration of not being able to do anything on her own, she is staying positive. She credits that to knowing she's surrounded by family and friends who will do anything to keep her comfortable and happy during this fight.
Through the eye gaze machine she says, "even though I have ALS, I still have a pretty perfect life because of my family and friends.”
Those interested in helping Meghan and her family are encouraged to visit the GoFundMe.