Keri B. Still: A Legacy of Care
Keri Brown Still was a brilliant and beautiful young lady. In 1999, she graduated summa cum laude from Appalachian State University and got married a few months later at age 21. By the time she was 27, Keri had added two master’s degrees while working for Allegacy Federal Credit Union. She was bright and successful, and wanted to be a mom more than anything.
In December of 2005, Keri’s right foot started dragging. She thought she had injured herself at the gym. The pain got worse “as the progression from ALS spread up her right leg and went down her left leg,” said Keri’s father, Harold Brown.
For months, Keri limped in and out of specialists’ offices, where she had EMGs, blood work and MRIs. She was told she had a slipped disk, yet the MRI did not show it. She was given prednisone. She was given one Immunoglobulin treatment. Tests were inconclusive. Doctors ruled out diseases such as Guillian-Barre, MS and Lyme Disease. They ruled out ALS, which was practically unheard of for someone her age.
Keri tried physical therapy and acupuncture. She saw chiropractors and neurologists. The feeling came back to her foot. Six months after her first doctor’s visit, she started getting movement back in her toes. The physical therapist said she was starting to work out the paralysis. One neurologist said she had a virus, and it was working itself out. This news came on the day she found out she was pregnant.
Within two months, Keri’s right leg would not work at all. Within four months, the other leg was so weak she was dragging herself to work on arm crutches. In December 2006, Keri was diagnosed with ALS by Dr. James Caress of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center ALS Center of Excellence. By the time the baby came, Keri was in a wheelchair, never to walk again. Keri died of ALS on Jan. 13, 2008, at the age of 29, just over a year after the diagnosis. Her daughter, Kellyn, was 10 months old.
As Keri’s family sought information on ALS, they discovered just how little is known about the disease. To honor her and provide information for others living with ALS, Keri’s parents, Harold and Joan Brown, formed Keri’s Crusade for ALS. They connected with The ALS Association North Carolina Chapter and hosted the first North Carolina ALS Caregivers Conference in 2008 to provide education for caregivers of all levels.
“Joanie wanted to start the conference as an educational item for people with ALS,” Harold said. “Our goal was to help people out so they could get some information that we had already had to research. We wanted to save people from running into the same things that we ran into.”