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College of Southern Maryland nursing faculty take ice bucket plunge for colleague with ALS

With a full heart, nursing professor Susan “Sue” Behmke watched from her wheelchair as colleagues and other supporters doused themselves with buckets of ice water to raise money for ALS, which has altered the trajectory of her life.

Even though the participants were cold and wet, Behmke, MS, RN, who has taught at the College of Southern Maryland for 30 years, felt the warmth of their love and respect.

“You never know in life when you are going to impress somebody,” said Behmke. “This has really been a honor for me.”

Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Behmke was diagnosed with ALS in 2013 but believes she had the disease several years earlier.

Dozens of faculty, students, friends and alums were part of a wave of supporters who participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on campus in September. Participants were asked to donate at least $1 for every year Behmke has taught.

Supporters also were encouraged to donate to the Susan N. Behmke Legacy Scholarship Fund established in 2012, when she retired. Behmke has taught online nursing and health sciences courses since then as an adjunct faculty member.

Supporters gave $920 in Behmke’s name to the ALS Association and 26 people donated $1,490 to the scholarship fund, according to school officials.

In early November, a team that included Behmke’s daughter, Beth, raised $2,750 at the Walk to Defeat ALS event on the National Monument grounds in Washington, D.C.

Nursing professor Robin Young, RN, who taught a course at the La Plata campus with Behmke, was not surprised the campus rallied around her colleague and friend of 23 years.

“Sue is a very caring and compassionate instructor who cares about her students and their success,” said Young, who helped organize the ice bucket challenge to support Behmke.

Nursing has been a rewarding career, said Behmke, who is pleased she established the guidelines for the scholarship in her name. She felt it was important that applicants have a 2.5 GPA. Behmke also required an essay because nurses need to be good communicators.

“I wanted to be inclusive for people who were really good students, but maybe had a lot of family circumstances that kept them from being at the top of their game,” she said.

Her health is failing, but Behmke cherishes her life.

“A lot of things about this disease will change your philosophy about living,” she said. “It’s about making the best of every day and being as optimistic as you can. It’s been a very good life for me.”

Robin Farmer is a freelancer writer.

By | 2014-12-05T00:00:00-05:00 December 5th, 2014|Categories: DC/MD/VA, Regional|0 Comments

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