Friends raise money for former Kankakee firefighter battling ALS

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - It has been a terrible and magnificent year for Derek Hogg. He’s the former Kankakee firefighter battling ALS-Lou Gehrig's Disease.

FOX 32's Dane Placko first introduced us to Hogg last year as he was still fighting to keep his job. It’s a fight he lost, but now he has gained something much greater.

Hogg left his job as a Kankakee firefighter after city officials refused to extend his employment by a few weeks so that he would qualify for a disability pension.

He now needs a walker and sometimes a wheelchair as his body continues to deteriorate.

At 33, Hogg suffers from ALS-Lou Gehrig's Disease, which is a muscle wasting condition for which there is no cure.

"That was my life, helping people. And now I'm in a position where people have to help me. It's really hard,” Hogg said.

Hogg, his wife Holly and their two young boys are doing their best to get by. Holly works part time as a teacher, and Hogg gets a small social security check.

There have been numerous fundraisers by suburban fire departments that have helped, other firefighters recently built a new driveway at the Hogg's home in Channahon, and a neighbor is about to install a wheelchair ramp.

"Well I'm not gonna sugarcoat anything. It's been very difficult. Everything's like a domino effect with him going downhill with his health and with the whole financial situation,” Holly said.

Hogg and Holly say they still can't understand why the city of Kankakee wouldn't help him work desk duty a little longer so that he would qualify for disability, which is something the city says would have been bending the rules.

They made a dramatic appeal to Kankakee’s mayor last year.

"So I ask you again mayor, will you let my brothers and sisters on the fire department assist me?" Hogg asked.

"There's nothing I can do to reverse that decision,” the mayor responded.

Now, Hogg sees a silver lining in that failure.

"Spreading awareness and getting word out there that ALS does exist, and ALS does drastically affect people and their families,” he said.

Despite his condition, Hogg says his heart still races when he hears sirens.

Last summer, when a nearby restaurant burnt down, hog still wanted to take action.

"I take my scooter all the way out there and I'm weaving in an out of fire engines,” Hogg said. "That was my last fire I was on I guess."

"I think what mostly affects him is not being able to do anything. He can't work. He can't drive. So he's depending on other people. You can tell it's affecting him,” Holly added.

There have been triumphant moments as well.
Last summer, Hogg finished a 1.5 mile race, which was a fundraiser for ALS, crossing the finish line after two hours with the help of his son's stroller.

But the most surprising and amazing miracle of all was still sleeping inside holly when FOX 32 visited last week.

"The thing I can say is nothing goes as planned in life. We didn't plan for him to get ALS. We didn't plan for him to lose his job. We didn't plan for the baby. But it's a blessing,” Holly said.

On Wednesday, Holly gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Brinlee Grace.

"Her middle name is gonna be Grace. Because I think she's going to be my little saving grace,” Hogg said. "I think a positive mental attitude is 99-percent of the battle. And it's gonna be impossible to be negative holding a baby in your hands."

Friends of the Hogg family are trying to help get Derek a conversion van. They have started a Go Fund-Me page to raise money for it.

Friends are hoping to raise $10,000. They say a used conversion van costs more than $30,000 and Hoge's insurance won't pay for it.

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