CHELSEA (CBS) – Growing hope; that’s what a woman dealing with the profound consequences of ALS is doing at a nursing home in Chelsea. ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is progressive, stealing its victims ability to move and speak. Well, this woman lets her gardens do the talking.
“I like watching my babies grow. Some we planted from seed. It makes me have something to get out of bed for. I check on them at least three times a day,” says 49-year-old Melissa King.
She was diagnosed with ALS five years ago. She now lives at the Leonard Florence Center for living in Chelsea which is operated by the non-profit Chelsea Jewish Lifecare.
A chef and avid gardener, Melissa had an idea. To turn what used to be empty garden beds into a flourishing home for vegetables, herbs and flowers. “Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, gladiolas, morning glories,” she says.
Because of the disease, Melissa can’t walk or talk normally, so she speaks by typing into a computer. An electronic voice brings her words to life. “I’ve been very lucky so far. My doctor says he’s never seen a case that has progressed so slow,” she explains.
So with a bit of help, Melissa created her garden. The herbs have already been used at the cafe, and they’re just waiting for the veggies to ripen. In the meantime, residents and their families enjoy the view.
“I hope they get the feeling that they can do anything, no matter what ails them,” Melissa says.
“It makes her happy, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters,” says Coty Miller, who is the activities director at the home and helped with the planting.
Melissa says she was able to do it with thanks to Coty, her brother John, Barry Berman, Bill Ritch and her family, who passed down years of gardening knowledge. Melissa even uses her computer to play music for her plants.
“I used to talk to them. It’s just the next best thing. Music is therapeutic for me, why not for them,” she says.