JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For 30 years, Jimmy Judge has committed his life to his family and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Now, as an assistant chief with JSO, he’s in one of the greatest fights of his life. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
It’s a progressive disease that attacks nerve cells that control muscles throughout the body.
Judge says he will fight to live until his last breath.
He’s spreading the word about ALS while fighting for his life. See his interview with News4Jax reporter and anchor Jenese Harris on “The 10 O’Clock News” Sunday evening.
From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 28, the River City Brewing Company will host a fundraiser benefiting Judge and his family.
Judge has been athletic his whole life, achieving a black belt in martial arts, competing in bodybuilding competitions and being an avid runner.
“It’s an endorphin release,” Judge said. “I get to socialize, which is big. I’m very social.”
His body is beginning to change, however.
He is having issues breathing and his diaphragm muscles are going away.
Judge said some of his first symptoms began when he was at the gun range.
“About a year-and-a-half ago I was on the gun range doing recalls qualifying and I shot well and nothing was wrong,” he said. “But when it came time to reload my magazine, I was having difficulty reloading my magazines and I couldn’t figure out why I was having trouble getting the bullets in there right and I felt embarrassed. So I went to my car and did it and I was able to get them all loaded and didn’t think a whole lot of it.”
But a few months later during a speech, talking became difficult.
As time went on, he saw a hand specialist, then a neurologist.
“It was a devastating diagnosis,” he said. “I subsequently went to Johns Hopkins, got it confirmed and now I am being treated at Mayo Clinic.”
Judge his beloved wife, Shannon, who has also worked for Duval schools 30 years, immediately began researching ALS.
She is fighting for his life too.
“My wife would be on the Internet every night,” Judge said. “She is my biggest advocate and caretaker. She takes me to every appointment. I’ve watched her argue with neurologists and doctors.”
ALS is a terminal illness with a 100 percent mortality rate, but Judge asked doctors how he can reverse it.
“He said, ‘Jimmy, this disease, people don’t survive this disease,’” Judge said. “I took a day to feel sorry for myself and cried and got it out of my system and began relying on family and friends ever since.”
The doctors have told Judge not to work out because his muscles won’t rebuild because of ALS.
But Judge still works out.
“I need to get up for my son again and show him we don’t lay down,” he said. “I am not going to lay in bed and feel sorry for myself.”
With every workout, in his mind he’s fighting the disease and thinking of his son. At times he gets winded, but he keeps going.
“I don’t want the last years of my life (for) my son to remember immobile sedentary,” he said.
Despite the pain Judge, is always smiling and moving. But there is one thing that angers him, which is there being no cure for ALS.
“You’re telling me in 80 years you can’t slow this disease down?” he said. “You’re telling me this is the best that you can do?”
So he traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for stem cell research multiple times.
It’s a rare disease, with some research reports like this one from JAMA suggesting that ALS happens to people that are exposed to tear gas. Another theory it happens to very active people like marathon runners. There is no definitive answer.
“I hope I wake up one day and my speech is a little bit better so we are going to keep pushing,” Judge said. “My wife got me in the trial.”
The support of others keeps him going too, like from his longtime friend and fellow JSO officer Terrance Hightower.
They hug after every workout set. They are brothers. The entire JSO staff has embraced Judge and his fight against ALS.
“I can’t overstate how humble I am for what they have done for me,” he said.
So as Judge works out in his fight against ALS as friends come to visit. Even the owners of the gym he goes to, the Bailey Brothers, are his friends.
Judge he has no intention on stopping this physical fight against ALS.
“I’m going to keep fighting to the end, but if it gets me its going to take me but we’ll see,” he said.
So, if you see him moving and not resting, don’t judge him.
Judge is showing that with every second.
If you would like to learn more about ALS we have a link in this story.