Doug Alberg is a man that likes to work with his hands and gets things done. After getting diagnosed with unknown Ataxia only two years ago, his daily life changed a lot, but he also learned to appreciate the little things in life.
Hi, my name is Doug Alberg. I am 50 years old and live in the small town of Sturgeon Lake in rural east central Minnesota. I have been happily married for 18 years to my wife, April. I have one married adult stepson, who has made me a grandpa to a 2-year-old grandson. I am the proud parent of 4 children. I have a daughter in the U.S. Air Force who is stationed in sunny California, a daughter living in Rhode Island, and a son living only an hour away. The youngest of our family is a daughter who is 15 and still living at home.
I was diagnosed with an unknown Ataxia with no family history at the University of Minnesota after a long search and many doctor appointments and tests just a short two years ago. I noticed symptoms getting worse during a three-month extended Mission Trip to rural Haiti in 2017. During our time in Haiti, I often found myself bouncing down the side of our van while starting a generator to pump our water. The extreme heat was also very bothersome to me. I always wondered why I was so tired!
Since this time, my balance and speech have slowly but surely gotten worse as well as some cognitive & memory issues. I have attended physical and speech therapy. I currently do my physical therapy at my home. I was declared legally disabled after two denials late in the year 2020.
Prior to my diagnosis, I was involved in church mission trips, family camping trips, and many different outdoor activities, and any type of home repairs needed. We have since sold our camper and home, moving to a one-level home that is more disability-friendly. We are all trying to adjust to the new “normal” but I must admit the old normal was much better! I still enjoy our small flock of 15 chickens on a daily basis, although their care is getting harder for me especially during the long Minnesota winters.
I worked in the family business that my father started in 1970, Alberg Auto, as a collision repair technician since I have been in my teens. I was the jack of all trades doing everything from writing the estimates to the final painting of the repaired vehicles. However, I am no longer able to work on cars due to my progressing Ataxia symptoms. After hiring someone to do my job, I have since gone to working half days and my duties have switched to staying in the office and continuing to write the estimates and ordering parts. I am still the face people have come to know over the years, and it gives me the opportunity to explain to people what exactly Ataxia is and why they see me using a cane at age 50.
Having Ataxia has made me accept the help our family needs. Being a strong-willed person that is a hard pill for me to swallow. Being someone who took pride in being able to do things myself and see the finished product, this has been a real challenge for me. The loss of dexterity is especially hard for me since I worked with my hands so much. I am reminded often just how stubborn I am! Having Ataxia has also taught me not to take the little things for granted since the smallest things in everyday life are now a challenge for me to accomplish. It has also taken away many of the things I used to be able to do. I think we can all say we hope for a cure someday. Until then I will work to accept the life I have been given.
Big thanks to Doug Alberg for telling about his journey and sharing some thoughtful insights about living with Ataxia.
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