Accepting a new reality with a smile

ALS HAS DRAMATICALLY CHANGED the lives of Jennie and Dave Ziemke, but they both share a positive attitude as they fight the incurable disease. A benefit for the couple will take place at Breezy Barn on Sunday, Nov. 24. Photo / Per Peterson

Five months ago, Dave Ziemke was diagnosed with ALS. It hasn’t been easy since, but a positive attitude has helped him and his wife, Jennie, forge ahead

By Per Peterson

Everyone goes through transitions in life — some are for the better, some are not. Dave Ziemke’s latest transition has been one of his toughest.
The proud Vietnam veteran, whose love of getting out and interacting with others is outweighed only by his pride in his country and devotion to his dutiful wife, Jennie, is trying to get used to a lifestyle that keeps him mostly indoors and confined to a wheelchair.
Ziemke on May 15 of this year was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) by a doctor at the Veterans’ Administration Hospital in Sioux Falls. But while the crippling disease has affected his body and his speech, it hasn’t touched his attitude.
“Sometimes I get depressed, but I try to focus on the positive and try to be an inspiration for other people,” Ziemke said. “I had one guy get ahold of me who was a policeman and was dealing with PTSD; he contacted me and we’ve gone back and forth because I have PTSD. He said he admired me so much for the way I’ve handled everything.”
Ziemke has essentially gone from somewhat of a social butterfly to someone who struggles to even get outside. It’s not an easy transition, but he’s handling it with his head held high. He’s even been credited by a representative of the Paralyzed Veterans of America Clinic in Sioux Falls for having such a positive attitude despite his new, more sedentary lifestyle.
“I was always so active,” said Ziemke, who for 15 years delivered Meals on Wheels in Tracy. “I used to go around and mow and blow snow with my John Deere — the ‘Green Giant’ I call it,” he said. “I haven’t been on it since earlier this year.”
“He loves to visit with people,” Jennie said. “When it’s nice out on the weekends, I take him to Wal-Mart and he can roll around there and visit with people. There’s always someone you know in Wal-Mart. We have a lot to be thankful for.”

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight Herald.