Baumanns smiling through the pain

WITH THE HELP OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS, Karl and Gloria Baumann have learned to smile through the tough times they are going through. Photo / Per Peterson

“From adversity, heroes are born” — Former NFL player and ALS sufferer, Steve Gleason

By Per Peterson

It was 2:30 in the morning. For no apparent reason, Karl Baumann woke up from a deep sleep. The song “My Life is in Your Hands” came to his mind.

“It just talks about how sometimes life is good, sometimes life is bad — I was blessed and fortunate enough to sing that with my brothers and we recorded it,” Karl said. “It reminded me, if you don’t have faith, how do you get through tough times?”

Now would most definitely qualify as a tough time for Karl and his wife, Gloria, who was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in March, forcing her to leave a job she loved in the Tracy Area Elementary School kitchen. The disease has made speaking difficult for Gloria — Karl does a lot of speaking for her — but it hasn’t stripped her of her positive outlook. Her smile is still there, too, as is the glow in her eyes when she looks at her husband. The feeling is mutual, as Karl has taken on somewhat of a caretaker role for his beloved wife of 39 years.

“You anticipate growing old together, but the Lord has other plans,” said Karl. “It’s one of those things — like I told Glor’ when we got the diagnosis, ‘Better or worse.’ We’ve been together since we were 17; our lockers were side-by-side in high school.”

The Baumanns, who have 14 grandchildren — all 7 1/2 or under — with one on the way, aren’t letting Gloria’s condition dull their faith or put a damper on their future. They recently went to an ELO concert and have even planned for their 40th anniversary next June.

“She said she would like to have a dance for our 40th,” Karl said. “Then after she got sick she said, ‘I suppose we can’t really have a dance now.’ I said, ‘If you want an anniversary party, we’re going to have one.” She asked if we were stupid to plan that far ahead, and I said, “Nope, we’re going to plan ahead. We’ve got it booked, I’ve talked to Mylan Ray to do the dee-jay stuff for us. We have to have something to look forward to.”

While keeping a positive attitude, the Baumanns are well aware of a future of uncertainty. They know there is no cure for ALS, and the research Karl has done doesn’t necessarily provide a bevy of good news.

“You know, if it’s cancer, you’ve got radiation, chemo, you’ve got hope … with this, there’s nothing you can do,” Karl said.

Gloria does take medication — a pill every 12 hours that slows the progression of ALS. Karl was told taking the pill can prolong someone’s life as much as three months. The Baumanns could buy another three months with an infusion pump.

“I was going to try the pill form, but because I take another drug it’s hard on my liver,” Gloria said.

“We don’t need another front to fight,” Karl added.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.