Nevada Filipino man with ALS honored at group ice bucket challenge

By Rommel Conclara and Troy Espera, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

August 25, 2014

SPARKS, Nev. – For this group of Fil-Ams in Sparks, Nev., the popular ice bucket challenge is personal.

The group of 26 family members and nurses all came to support 68-year-old Filipino Rogelio Kang who was diagnosed in 2011 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS.

For the Kangs, the diagnosis was devastating.

“To know that your partner is sick with that, it’s not easy for me to take. Not until the neurologist from Stanford really confirmed that it was ALS. I didn’t even wait for the neurologist to say it,” said Kang’s wife Nenette. “I left the room.”

Rogelio Kang immigrated from Dumaguete in the mid-1980s. He worked in casinos in Reno for 22 years as a key man. He also visited the Philippines every year during Christmas.

ALS destroys nerves that control muscle function. For Rogelio, who was known as a very active person, ALS progressively robbed him of the use of his legs, arms, and his ability to speak.

“I’ve seen him do just a little bit of a decline with the fact that he was able to stand with the help of one person about a month ago and now it takes two people to make him stand up,” said PJ Juhrend, Kang’s physical therapist

At this stage, Rogelio needs care around the clock, an effort shared by the whole family.

“My life is God’s gift to me and I have no right to give it up, but I would rather say I am sharing my life with him,” said Nenette. “My hands are his hands now. My legs are his legs.”

His youngest daughter Reeza moved her father and his wife into her home to provide extra support.

“I think before he got diagnosed and started getting sick and starting to progress, I told him that I would take care of him. So that’s my push and it’s hard as a caregiver,” said Reeza.

Over the past few weeks, awareness and donations to ALS organizations have skyrocketed thanks to the ice bucket challenge that has gone viral on social media, where people dare each other to dump ice water on themselves or to donate to ALS organizations.

There is no cure or treatments for ALS and Reeza knows that any donations made today won’t help her father. But she sees hope for others down the road because the funds are raised for more research.

“Hopefully it will, with all of this awareness – eventually after a few years, even ten years from now, they will be able to come up with some type of medicine that, I’m not asking for a cure, but to keep the sickness at bay,” said Reeza.

Despite the day to day challenges the Kang family deals with, this small gesture of support put a big smile on their faces.

“I was so touched by that plan, by that event they are planning for my husband. I was just so touched,” said Nenette.

You can contact Rommel Conclara at rommel_conclara@abs-cbn.com or follow him on Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.

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