EDMONDS, Wash. - An elected official from a prominent political family has now found herself in the campaign of her life.
Edmonds City Council member Peggy Pritchard Olson started noticing some unusual symptoms last spring. She seemed to be stumbling a lot.
The devoted wife and grandmother got the bad news on her birthday: She had the degenerative nerve disease ALS. There is no known cause and no cure. The daughter of former Washington Congressman and Lieutenant Governor Joel Pritchard would slowly lose her muscle control, her speech and eventually her life.
But instead of cocooning at home with family and friends, Peggy formed a support group led by her friend, Pat Greenstreet, whose mother died from ALS. "Team Peggy" raises money for ALS awareness and Peggy's home care.
"Peggy's the one who gave us our mission," Greenstreet said. "She told us that she wanted her life with ALS to make a difference. So we're her arms and legs and her voice when she can't speak."
Peggy can't speak well any more, but she can communicate with a DynaVox, which voices her written words.
"I am doing well, especially with all the help and support I am receiving," she said.
She still attends council meetings and she was just voted Edmonds' citizen of the year.
But the disease is progressing quickly. Last August she talked about how she wants to be remembered, saying: "Someone who contributed to her community and raised awareness of ALS and made it a better place, than, you know, without me."
Soon, she'll lose her ability to type, but her DynaVox will let her use her eyes to search each letter and communicate.
She is on a new campaign now:
"To keep raising awareness of ALS and to be on the council as long as I can be effective," she said.
When she was diagnosed 11 months ago, she was told she probably had about 12 months left to live. And yet she considers herself lucky.
"I have had the incredible experience of having so many people tell me how much they love me," she said. "And most people don't experience that."
When Peggy was diagnosed, there wasn't a local support group for ALS patients. So "Team Peggy" started one at Stevens Hospital in Edmonds. The group meets on the second Monday of each month at 10 a.m. in the cafeteria.