Fourth of July weekend has special significance to O. J. Brigance, the Ravens senior advisor to player development.
Brigance has courageously battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, since being diagnosed in 2007. Exactly 76 years ago, on July 4, 1939, Gehrig made his famous speech at Yankee Stadium, calling himself, “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”, despite suffering from the disease that would bear his name, end his career, and take his life.
Brigance has inspired countless people, just like Gehrig. No longer able to walk or speak, Brigance remains a daily presence at Ravens’ headquarters, determined to work, to help, to live.
He and his wife Chanda have become pillars in the Baltimore community, raising money and awareness for ALS treatement and research. Visit Brigance’s website http://www.brigancebrigade.org/ to help Brigance in his fight.
Brigance communicates with a DynaVox computer, which has eye-recognition software that chooses a letter when he blinks at it. I emailed Brigance a few questions for the Fourth of July. His answers, via email, are below.
Q: You are an inspiration to many people. How much does that inspire you in your battle with ALS?
A: Knowing that people are encouraged by my battle against ALS serves as a reminder to me that good can come from a bad situation. Would I have chosen to have ALS? Of course not! But it has allowed me to use my platform to bring encouragement to some and a different perspective about dealing with adversity. I am thankful to be able to impact lives for the better. That is something I am extremely proud of.
Q: How much do you think ALS research and awareness has increased since you were diagnosed?
A: I believe awareness about ALS has increased exponentially thanks to phenomenon like the Ice Bucket Challenge and shows like Empire and movies like The Theory of Everything. On the research front, it seems as though there are many ground-breaking studies, but no concrete science to expedite the finding of a cure. My hope is that a breakthrough will be found very soon!
Q: It's impressive to see you at the Ravens' facility on a daily basis. Is there ever a day when you don't feel like going to work, and if so, how do you overcome that?
A: There isn’t a single day that I am not excited to go to the facility. The Ravens have graciously allowed me to have a role in the organization and I am thankful for the opportunity. When you get to do what you are passionate about, there is no burden. Being around my Ravens family is better than any medicine a doctor could subscribe.
Q: Lou Gehrig called himself "lucky". In what ways do you consider yourself "lucky"?
A: I wouldn’t consider myself “lucky”, but very blessed. I have had the opportunity to achieve every goal I have dreamed of up to this point. God still allows me to open my eyes each morning to continue to pursue my purpose in helping others. He has granted me the divine perspective to see what gifts He has given me instead of what has been taken away. This is the greatest season of my life in regards to impacting the world for the better! I would like to experience one more goal though, to walk and talk again. And I will!