RED LODGE — Anything can happen at any time. That’s a lesson that Red Lodge residents Marvin and Renee Rodenbeck learned after Marvin’s sister was diagnosed with ALS. As her caretakers, they’re sharing their experience on what it’s been like and why family is so important.
“I tried to raise my kids with as much love and care as I could ‘cuz I didn’t have that,” said Renee Rodenbeck on Thursday.
The Rodenbecks have always been nurturers, even adopting their granddaughter years ago when their eldest son gave her up.
“Our granddaughter has been absolutely awesome until she turned 18 in November and now we have a true pain in the rear on our hands,” Renee chortled.
But their duty to family didn’t end there. Marvin’s younger sister Jill has special needs and was living on her own in Columbus up until a year ago.
“I noticed a year ago, she was slurring. He did some investigating and found out she was on way too many pills,” said Renee.
The couple jumped in as Jill’s advocates and found out that she was living with Bulbar ALS.
“It doesn’t affect the mobility part, it’s more of the mental and physical, swallowing and talking and all of that,” Renee said.
“I know that my speech is getting ready to go some time,” said Jill.
Through that devastating news, Marvin and Renee did not hesitate, immediately stepping up as Jill’s caretakers. It’s an act that didn’t go unnoticed by their son, Neil.
“My dad finances, helping get the trips to Billings, Billings Clinic, the ALS clinics. And then my mom, being on the phone day after day with the doctors, and scheduling appointments,” Neil said.
And they’ve now learned that their actions essentially saved Jill’s life.
“The doctors have said she probably wouldn’t be here now had we not jumped in, and she came to us,” said Renee.
With the help of a feeding tube, she’s gained 11 pounds and is no longer severely dehydrated or underweight.
“I just live off ice cream, and pudding, and all of that,” Jill said.
Jill knows she doesn’t have a lot of time left, so the Rodenbecks took her back to her hometown in Indiana this Sunday to live out the rest of her days with family.
But Neil hopes their story will inspire others to appreciate what they have.
“Live every day to the fullest ‘cuz once again, you’re not granted for tomorrow, so live for today,” said Neil.