Creating Memories

Kristin Rankin, PhD, of Palos Park, was a happily married mom to three energetic young daughters and on track to make tenure at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health.

But everything changed when she was diagnosed, at age 39, with ALS.

In 2016, Kristin began tripping and falling on her routine walk to the train station. Concerned, she sought advice from a neurologist who ran several tests, and in the summer of 2017, the team at the Les Turner ALS Center at Northwestern Medicine informed her she had ALS. 

As a working mom faced with this life changing news, Kristin quickly reconsidered what was important and adjusted her work schedule to allow for more time with her family.

Today, with tremendous support from colleagues, Kristin works two days per week, mentoring graduate students and advising colleagues who have taken over her research projects.

No longer working long hours, Kristin is able to spend time making more memories with her young family. Kristin’s husband Kevin plays a key role as caregiver to both Kristin and their daughters, ages 4, 7 and 9. As a family, they spend time reading books, playing games and travelling, making sure to live in the moment and enjoying the little things in life.

Since Kristin’s diagnosis, the disease has progressed, weakening her hands, slurring her speech and causing fatigue. As walking becomes more difficult, Kristin relies on a walker around the house and a manual wheelchair for longer distances.

“Soon I’ll be fitted for a power wheelchair, which will allow me to be more active with the girls,” said Kristin. “I enjoy being an integral part of what they are doing, whether it’s arts and crafts or bike riding, but as ALS impacts my abilities, I’m finding new ways to participate. The power chair, for example, will enable me to ‘ride’ alongside them when they bike through the neighborhood.”

Kristin is visited by members of our support services team which is comprised of knowledgeable and compassionate nurses, social workers and counselors who visit people living with ALS between appointments at the clinic to address their needs and guide them through their management of the disease. Whatever your personal connection to ALS may be, we’re here to answer your questions, provide encouragement and ensure you, and those you love, feel comforted and confident. Learn more about our support services.

Kristin’s story was shared further in The Regional News.