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Denning with Lee Patterson in the 1980s

Denning battling ALS

By Michael Butler

Power lifters would stop in the middle of their workouts to watch James Denning when he approached the rack. He could bench press 450 pounds. That was then. This is now.

In the 1980s, Denning was as strong as anybody. Today, at 52, he struggles getting up and down.

"Last February, a year ago, I was walking. Now I can't use my right side, the leg or the arm," he said.

Denning has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. With his body weakening, he now uses a walker and wheelchair to get around. His wife Jennifer is always by his side.

"The left side is now starting to weaken," she said. "They give you two to five years life expectancy on a basic case from the day you're diagnosed. We just hit our one year mark."

Denning's doctor, Dr. Gwen Claussen, also worked with Kevin Turner, who passed away last year at the age of 46. Turner was born in Prattville and went on to play football at Alabama and in the NFL. His case has been cited in studies on concussions relative to ALS.

"Scientists are trying to link it to a traumatic injury," Jennifer pointed out. "James had a wound to his foot where he almost lost one of his toes. They are saying that could have been a trigger."

Denning and his wife Jennifer telling their story on WTLS Radio

Dr. Claussen recommended that the Dennings do all they can while they can. James and Jennifer have 13-year-old twin sons.

"She said if James wanted to do anything fun, exciting, take any trips, that in the next six months it needed to happen," Jennifer said. "Because of his progression, she wants him to be able to enjoy the trip. We mentioned to her we wanted to go to Disney. She said you better do it immediately. So we posted it on Facebook."

Friend Carolyn Scott started a GoFundMe page, Denning Vacation To Disney. Another friend, Greg Sayers and his uncle Todd Sayers set up a Denning's to Disney vacation raffle.

"We've had a great outreach so far," Jennifer added. "Make A Wish Foundation only goes to children, so this is James, "Make A Wish." This is his big wish, his final wish - to take his family to Disney."

To make a donation, visit the Denning's GoFundMe page:

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