By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — David Noyes can fix almost anything, including cars, motorcycles, lawnmowers and snow blowers. He’s gotten many things running again for friends, for family members and for neighbors.
But when he was diagnosed this year with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, there was no shop manual he could go to for help. He said the disease isn’t as well publicized or researched as other diseases such as cancer, as it doesn’t affect as many people.
“Being a person who likes to fix things, my muscles are dying, they’re being turned off,” Noyes said. “So I said to myself, why can’t I turn them back on?”
What began as a twitch in his right arm earlier this year progressed month by month and by the time fall came around his speech was slurred and he’d lost strength and coordination in his arm. So he tried something daring, unorthodox and even dangerous, hoping it would turn on the muscles that were shutting down because of the disease.
“I was working on my son’s truck and I thought I’d try to shock my muscles into action,” Noyes said. “I put my right hand on a spark plug wire and my left hand on the fender.”
He said the thousands of volts that coursed through his arm didn’t knock him to the ground as he’d expected, nor did it wake up the muscles in his arm as he’d hoped.
“I figured I’d try it if no one else had,” he said.
Noyes, 50, a lifelong resident of Haverhill, is taking it one day at a time after being diagnosed earlier this year with ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
“Cancer has touched our family, and there is hope for them and for others, but for me my only hope is what tomorrow may bring,” he said. “I’m on a pill that might extend my life for two or three months, but any day I get out of bed is a good day.”
Friends and family are rallying around Noyes in his battle to fight ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease. They hope to relieve him at least of the added worry of having to pay his mounting medical bills. They are holding a benefit for him on Saturday at the Plaistow Fish & Game Club. They also hope to educate people about ALS, what it is, and how they and other Merrimack Valley families are dealing with this frightening illness.
Noyes’ sister, Carlene “Penny” DeMaris, said that as word got out about the benefit, individuals, families, businesses and others throughout the area responded with donations to a fund in his name as well as items for Saturday’s benefit. She said her brother is a great father to his two sons, Tim Egan, 24, and Josh Noyes, 21, a great son to his 84-year-old mother Mary Noyes, who is visually impaired, along with being a great brother.
DeMaris said her brother’s battle with ALS began in May with a twitch in his upper right arm that just wouldn’t go away. He ignored it. During a game of darts, he didn’t have the strength he usually had, but again he didn’t think anything of it.
Then in June, during a Father’s Day family gathering, his speech became slurred.
“Again we didn’t think too much about it, and thought he might have been tired,” said DeMaris, who is well known in the community for her work at the public library’s circulation desk, a job she recently retired from.
In July, Noyes didn’t answer his phone so his sister went to his home. She he found him in the driveway trying to repair his car.
“His arm was numb, his speech was more slurred than before and I thought he was having a stroke so I rushed him to Lawrence General Hospital,” she said.
Two days later after numerous CAT scans and a three-hour long MRI of his head, the unthinkable and unbelievable was detected, DeMaris said.
“The doctor’s thought it might be ALS, then in September it was confirmed,” she said.
“Where did this come from?” DeMaris asked about her brother, who she said was a healthy man who never smoked, never did drugs, drank very little and had never been hospitalized for anything other than a torn bicep on his left arm six years ago.
“How could a disease come from nowhere and affect such a good man?” she asked. “I’ve learned there are no answers and that it just happens.”
Next week Noyes will be taking part in a research project that might someday lead to a cure.
“He’s going to Mass General to provide them with samples of his spinal fluid and skin,” DeMaris said. “They’ve asked family members to do the same thing.”
According to the ALS Association, the disease was first described in 1869 by a French neurologist, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease when he abruptly retired from baseball after being diagnosed with ALS. Most commonly, the disease strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.
“I want the world to know of this disease,” DeMaris said. “We have to get the word out, they have to do more research and they have to find a cure for this deadly disease. Who knows who could be next?”
A benefit for David Noyes is Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight at the Plaistow Fish and Game Club, 18 May Ray Ave., Plaistow, N.H. The event will include food, music by a DJ, a 50/50 raffle and raffles for a variety of items including a 42-inch flat screen television, four Patriots playoff tickets, a baseball signed by Jon Lester and one signed by Curt Schilling, four tickets to a New Hampshire 300 NASCAR race in July, dinner for two on the Spirit of Boston as well as gift cards to local stores, services and restaurants.
Tickets, at the door, are a donation of $20. Wrist bands will be sold during and after the event with proceeds going to ALS research. A fund for David Noyes has been set up at Haverhill Bank and donations can be made to: Noysee Nation benefit for David Noyes, c/o Carlene DeMaris, 102 Chadwick St., Bradford, MA 01835. Donations in David Noyes’ name can also be made to the Massachusetts chapter of the ALS Association.
For more information contact Carlene “Penny” DeMaris at 508-320-7819, Stacey Guptill at 978-771-1843, Tammy Wilson at 978-552-9865 or Malissa Downey at 978-376-9718.