PLYMOUTH, Wis. (WFRV) – September 21, 2022, marks ten years since 55-year-old Ted Haakonsen was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as ALS.
The neurological disease affects the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement, making chewing, walking, and talking difficult tasks.
Most people with ALS live two to five years longer, but Ted was one of 25 people in the world to receive a stem cell treatment, which has helped prolong the disease.
Now, Ted is putting the pedal to the metal with his time and was given a ride in his favorite vehicle, a 1964 Shelby Cobra around Road America.
This isn’t the first time Ted has done something rambunctious and spontaneous. He had made a bucket list and was able to go downhill skiing, traveled in an airplane during EAA, sailed around the ocean, and now reached speeds over 100 miles per hour in the classic convertible.
“It was the speed,” said Jaci Haakonsen, Ted’s wife. “Giving him the ability to be that free, it gives him that freedom of just being in that air, and from the moment that he’s in it, he doesn’t have ALS, he’s just Ted.”
Ted was strapped in with a GoPro attached to the vehicle, along with a camera facing him so the family will never forget the truly remarkable experience.
His driver, Rollie, fired up the engine and began its trip around one of the most famous road courses in the United States.
The sleek black, red, and white Shelby Cobra made it around the track for a few laps before subsequently breaking down, which gives the family a memory of its own, having to retrieve the car from the track.
“Most ALS patients never leave their home,” added Jaci. “They just kind of never get that opportunity and Ted’s always been a guy to get out there and get involved. I always think that your mental health has so much to do with your general health and every time Ted’s out here doing normal things it gives him the opportunity to just be normal for the time he has ALS.”
Jaci also tells Local 5 News that it’s important to make do with the time you have, especially when someone you know has been diagnosed with ALS.
“When you get diagnosed with ALS, there’s really no hope.,” explained Jaci. “They kind of tell you in a very short period that you have six months to two years to live and it’s so overwhelming that you almost just want to wait, you just don’t know what to do.”
“We decided that it’s not what you do with how long you wait with that time, but what you do with that time and Ted wanted to make sure that he got that opportunity to get out and do stuff so that his life represented more than just one thing,” added Jaci.
Jaci, while sparking some emotion, was very thankful to all the staff that made this ride of a lifetime for Ted possible.
“People are very kind,” said Jaci. “There’s a lot of people who aren’t but most people are very very kind and we have 17 people here with us today just to see a smile on Ted’s face. It’s a great feeling.”
Although Ted was wearing a mask, you could see the smile underneath. While September 21 will forever be a darker day in Ted and his family’s life, September 21, 2022, made it just a little bit brighter.
As for what’s next on the adventurer’s bucket list, he plans to jump out of an airplane. Although, Jaci might have the final say in that conversation.
“We are not doing that! Just to be clear, we are not doing that!” exclaimed Jaci, while Ted made a visible smile on his face.