Lincoln mom, beats all odds, inspires many

Olinda Olson, center, said her family’s love and faith in God has helped her in her long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Olson is surrounded by her family at her son’s wedding, from left, Jared, husband Rich, Drew and Kindra.

Story and photos by Dominique Kelley, NewsNetNebraska

Twenty nine years ago, Olinda Olson thought she had three to five years to live.

Instead she’s beat the odds for patients diagnosed with “Lou Gehrig’s” disease, the more common name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Her battle hasn’t been easy. Olson is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair. She also eats with a feeding tube because she can no longer swallow. Yet Olson credits God, her husband, Rich, and children Drew, Jared and Kindra for inspiring her to live a life full of understanding and purpose.

“There was one request I made of the Lord,” she said. “I asked if I could live long enough to see my children graduate from high school.” In 1998, her 16-year-old prayer was answered when she watched her youngest son, Drew, graduate from Concordia University.

Olson hasn’t been the only one inspired on her nearly 30-year journey with the disease; she’s also inspired many by giving others a different perspective on life.

Olinda has been married to Rich Olson, a retired high school girls’ basketball coach, for 40 years. He’s not surprised by his wife’s courage.

“She’s very tough and very driven and she always has been,” he said. “She has far exceeded the limitations of this disease. We haven’t beaten it but we are conquering it.”

Charity Iromuanyna, a player on Rich Olson’s 2005 Class A state championship basketball team, continues to be encouraged by Olinda even years after high school.

“She just has the ability to quickly impact others and is a constant reminder for me to seize all opportunities,” Iromuanya said. “I try to never take a single day for granted and a large part of that is Olinda.”

The ALS Association, which works to combat Lou Gehrig’s disease, estimates that only 5 percent of people with ALS will live 20 years or more. Olinda Olson is one of them.

And while she constantly reminds people of just how precious life is, her inspiration is the love of God and her family.

“I believe that I’m in God’s will and that’s what living is all about.”

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