Michael Fecher has been battling MS since 1982. He’s been using a motorized chair for about ten years, and for the past one and a half years has received home healthcare services through VNASC. For Christmas this year, he and his family decided to forgo presents to each other, and instead made a generous donation to the VNASC annual fund. We wanted to find out more about him and his family, and he graciously accommodated our request for an interview.
Michael graduated from Northeastern University in 1965 with a degree in physics, and received a graduate degree in 1971 from the University of Rhode Island in oceanography. He met and married Maryanne, who is a graduate of Emmanuel College with a degree in physics, in 1967, and moved to southeastern CT to work at the Underwater Sound Lab in New London. He traveled extensively to work on Navy research projects, and was chief scientist on many of these. Later, he helped start an office of Science Applications International Corporation in New London. There he worked on an environmental project for which he spent six springs living in tents on the ice near the North Pole. He also volunteered on Dr. Bob Ballard’s Jason Project (middle-school students interact with scientists conducting underwater experiments) .
He has two grown sons and two small grandchildren.
When we asked Maryanne about Michael’s illness, and about how they’ve coped, she said “We work well together. He’s very adventurous and used to do a lot. We were even able to do some traveling together. He drove with hand controls until about three years ago. Giving up driving was hard.” When asked about how she was able to navigate through the complicated maze of Medicare and insurance issues she responded “I’m pretty good at it! I’ve been dealing with this for a long time now, and before Mike got sick I took care of my mother. You really have to advocate, and if you know you’re covered for something, you have to fight for it.”
Garye Jensen, Michael’s VNASC nurse, has been working with the Fechers since 2010. “Before Garye, Maryanne would have to take me to PT and my other appointments,” Michael said. “There were a lot of trips and it could be frightening at times. Now, Garye calls the doctors, gets my supplies . . . he’s very competent, low-key, and has saved us many trips to the emergency room. With MS, you’re always living with uncertainty. Garye gives us real peace of mind.”
The VNASC home health aides have also made an impression on Michael and Maryanne: “They are intelligent, hard-working, compassionate, very professional and upbeat,” Michael says. He continues, “They’ve given me the honor of getting a glimpse of their lives, and they of mine. And they’ve allowed me to remain in my home. They are the ‘face’ of VNASC.”
Michael still manages to volunteer for his neighborhood association’s handyman group, and he also serves on the board of the Montville Housing Authority. When we asked him how he stays positive in a difficult situation, Michael said “For me, it’s Maryanne. She does all the work, the investigation. I know she’s given up a lot. That’s what I find most difficult.” Maryanne adds softly, “But it’s my choice. We’re each other’s soul mates, and we just want to stay together and VNASC lets us do that.”