Tim Heiser has always been athletic, playing sports throughout high school and college. In the summer of 2005, he began noticing changes in his athletic ability - running and weight-lifting were becoming increasingly difficult. Playing softball with co-workers one afternoon, he found he was unable to run normally and, in fact, was stumbling, which alerted him that something may be wrong. He tried to disregard his symptoms and carry on with life normally for the next two years until, eventually, his symptoms became extremely noticeable by friends and family. After finally seeing a neurologist in 2008, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
"I never thought I would hear those three letters", says Heiser, recalling that memorable visit to the neurologist's office with his wife, Jen. "We were in shock and utter disbelief," he continues.
Parents of a four-year-old and a one-year-old, Tim and Jen had always wanted to have three children, but after his diagnosis they were unsure if that would be possible. With the fortunate knowledge that he has a slow-progressing form of ALS - along with his optimistic philosophy that "ALS changes things only if you let it" - they decided to have a third child and welcomed Samantha three years after his diagnosis, celebrating this as "still one of the best decisions that I ever made."
Although Heiser admits to some fear of what lies ahead and laments that he may miss future family milestones, he focuses on the positive and what he still can do: walk, drive, work, coach sports. Above all, he is grateful that he can still spend time with his family and he refuses to let ALS stop him from being a great father and husband.
"I try to look at life much differently today, as though there is no tomorrow. I try to live life to the fullest each and every day."
Heiser has become active in the ALS community through organizing teams for the Greater Philadelphia Walk to Defeat ALS, attending Philadelphia Hot Chocolate (the ALS Association's "sweetest event"), and participating in ALS golf outings. However, his largest role in supporting the ALS community to date has been his participation in the DoD Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Research Program (ALSRP). He affirms his role in the research review process as a positive experience where scientists of all different types of expertise and advocates with no scientific background can come together with a common goal to cure ALS. He has found that his opinions have been highly valued by the scientific reviewers, who truly listen and take his opinions into account when critiquing the research applications. Heiser remains optimistic and is hopeful that the research funded through the ALSRP will someday lead to a cure.