In the spring of 2002 Joe Hughes noticed that he was having trouble saying certain words, a problem that was only noticeable to him. After going to several specialists a neurologist told Joe that he had Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Lou Gehrig's Disease is also called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and is a lethal neuromuscular disease distinguished by progressive muscle frailty which eventually results in paralysis. Symptoms include stumbling, falling and tripping, loss of muscle control and strength in hands and arms, chronic fatigue, muscle twitching, aches and or cramping, and difficulty speaking, swallowing and or breathing. Other symptoms include pressure sores, constipation, swelling feet and burning eyes. The cause of the disease is undetermined and there is no known cure. Joe has Bulbar ALS, a form of ALS that attacks the bulbar region of the brain and spinal cord area first.
Northview High School Building Trades Instructor Dan Dragon was doing a small construction job for Joe and his wife Sherri when Joe was diagnosed with ALS. Dragon met with the Hughes family again in March to discuss the construction of a handicap accessible bathroom for Joe. If everything had to be purchased the remodeling would cost between $25,000 and $30,000.
Through the instruction of Christ Community pastor Tim Russell, Dragon was led to the scripture that told him what he needed to do. James 2:14-17 says, "What good is it, my brother, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food if one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
Dragon says, "God spoke to me through my prayers that I needed to help them. I would've wronged out if I wouldn't have helped them out."
Dragon put two stipulations on the project: There was to be no out-of-pocket expense for the Hughes and he was to reach out into the community for support. With volunteer labor, donations and price reductions he is hoping to cut the expenses in half.
First Christian Church, where Joe played the piano and was involved with the choir, quickly stepped in to help. Based on Dragon's vision, a fund for the remodeling project was accepted by the FCC elders and joined forces with Christ Community Church and Carbon Baptist to make the vision a reality. With several hundred man hours put in, a handicapped bathroom with a ramp extending from the garage into the house is now near completion. Associate Student Minister Chris Gregg has been volunteering his time to the project by assisting with drywall and electricity.
"My biggest impression is the Hughes' faithfulness through this very difficult situation," Gregg says.
The Hughes would like to thank all of the local businesses, people and the House of Hope for supporting the project.
Any donations for Dragon's continuing projects to First Christian Church c/o Joe Hughes Foundation 1875 W US Hwy. 40 Brazil, IN. 47834. Anyone willing to volunteer can contact Dragon at 443-0045 or the church at 446-2214.