Work, Marriage and Faith Come Together for a Couple with MS
Danny Goodman admits he wasn’t on the short list for World’s Most Supportive Man when wife Risa was diagnosed with MS in the early 90s. Knowing that Danny was a long-haul trucker, Risa’s neurologist explained that a person with MS is like a car: She can look great outside but have mechanical issues. Still, Danny suspected Risa of faking her fatigue.
Risa long ago forgave Danny for not knowing what he was talking about. But then Danny found out the hard way: in 2006 he, too, was diagnosed with MS.
Science cannot yet say whether this is a coincidence or a cluster. But the pair now take weekly shots together, and they’ve turned their circumstances into what their pastor calls a ministry, showing others that faith and fellowship — not a clean MRI — are the keys to happiness.
“As we began to pray about it and look at the situation, both of them realized this could be an opportunity for them to help others, not only with MS but other situations,” said Mark Bickford, pastor of the 150-member Rayville Christian Union Church.
Pastor Mark, as he’s known, occasionally refers to the Goodmans in sermons for showing “a great amount of faith in the midst of trials and tribulations,” and finds their attitude well illuminated by two scriptural passages: Philippians 4:13 and 2 Corinthians 1:4. He praised the couple for visiting other congregants in the hospital, and said Danny, who has a fabulous singing voice, sometimes puts on impromptu recitals for them.
Nobody is claiming that prayer banished the Goodmans’ symptoms: Risa’s balance is so unsteady that she fell and broke some bones; Danny’s vision comes and goes. But you have to admit, their family and work lives have been blessed. They had two children before Risa’s diagnosis and one after, and all three are healthy as can be (in fact the third was the biggest at birth).
At work, Danny has prospered despite hard times in the transportation industry. After his trucking company went bankrupt, he approached Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant, where he was an hourly worker 20 years before, and asked to come back. The factory didn’t need any line workers, but they did have a salaried supervisory position open and invited him to apply. He got the job.
Then Ford had a huge layoff. Of five supervisors in his unit, three could stay. Even though management now knew about the MS, they kept Danny.
“It was by pure performance. They picked the best,” he said.
Now Danny is in that classic bind: he has great health insurance, but the job that provides it may be harming his health. With only three supervisors for 50 workers and 300 robots spread over 10 acres, Danny puts in 70 hours a week — in a good week.
“Where every minute is big money, stress is just part of doing the job,” he said. “I don’t know how much it has to do with the attacks I’ve had.”
“I’m sure it’s got a lot to do with it,” Risa interjected.
Danny took a week off when his optic neuritis flared so badly he couldn’t read his wristwatch, and he feared the company would consider him an unaffordable nuisance. But the reception he got when he returned seemed to prove, yet again, that somebody was looking out for him: the workers had all signed a get-well card, and collected money for him.
"It was an act of love in a very stressful work environment," Danny said. "I try to treat my workers with respect and I don't allow myself to take out my aggressions on them."
Risa always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but with one child married and one in high school, she’s approaching the point where mothering might not be challenging enough. So she’s about to start her own career: emergency medical technician. She figures it’ll be like living her favorite show, “ER.”
More importantly, trying something new is part of Risa’s philosophy of living with MS:
“Just stay busy. Enjoy life. Don’t give up.”