In the early months of 2014, the onset of leg weakness drew Dr. Hira Ahluwalia into a deep medical investigation to determine the root cause of this seemingly small problem and to receive a formal diagnosis for his symptoms. An extensive process that would end up lasting nearly two years, finally resulted in the devastating diagnosis of ALS. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is known to cause progressive muscle weakness and impacts one’s ability to physically function, with no cure currently available.
Known to many as “Doctor Metals”, Ahluwalia is a corrosion expert and was heavily involved in the community. A diagnosis of ALS would surely mean quitting his job right? Wrong. Ahluwalia decided to not only continue working, but also began writing a book chronicling his experiences with the disease. Keep on Ticking: One Man’s Approach to Chronic Progressive Disease was self-published in 2021 and offers an inspirational glimpse in the fascinating life of a corrosion and materials consultant turned author.
Hira Ahluwalia was born in Blantyre, Malawi to a Sikh family, and moved to the United Kingdom at the age of 15 and obtained a Ph.D from the University of Newcastle. In Newcastle, he met Maggie, an Irish woman who was brought up Roman Catholic. The two got married in August of 1989. Together, the couple adventured from Canada to California and then to Indiana where they would welcome their first child, Arjan. A few years later in Toms River, NJ, they welcomed their second boy, Kieran, and the family moved to Pennington in 1997.
As a leading professional in materials and corrosion engineering, Ahluwalia began his own consulting business, Material Selection Resources Inc, as the family settled down in Pennington. He also became involved in coaching local youth sports teams, the Lions Club, Boy Scouts, and adult soccer. After nearly 17 years of living in Pennington, Ahluwalia began to have weakness in his right leg that would increase with physical activity. After a multitude of tests, scans, and doctors visits, in addition to worsening symptoms, ALS became the likely diagnosis.
“Through my story I hope to raise awareness of the impact this disease has on families.” Ahluwalia remarked. “Ultimately, we need legislative action to fund research to find a cure for this terrible disease. Many ALS patients choose to die because of the financial impact on the family and availability of qualified care. In a civilized society this should not be acceptable.”
With Ahluwalia’s communication limited to an eye gaze computer, the process of writing Keep on Ticking was undoubtedly not an easy venture. In addition to his use of the eye gaze technology, both son Kieran and friend Bruce Downie played vital roles in ensuring that the project could be completed. As for the actual process of writing, most of the tireless work was done between the late hours of 4am and 8am, mainly throughout the winter months.
“I took several weeks off many times because I was sad about the impact this disease has on my family. This motivated me to complete this book project so I can be of help to others,” he recalls. “I wanted to prove that disability does not prevent you from being a contributing member of the community. Oh yeah, being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you are stupid or hard of hearing! The book turned out much better than I imagined.”
So far, exposure for the book has been limited, as it was self-published by Ahluwalia and his team. Currently, marketing the book to a wider audience is a large part of his daily life, as they have begun to reach out to friends and family members, influential organizations, and members of the ALS community. According to Ahluwalia, any assistance in marketing from MercerMe readers would be greatly welcomed.
A copy of Keep on Ticking can be purchased from Ebay, by searching for item# 402846509939, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for an order form. Additionally, Ahluwalia encourages readers to follow him on Instagram @docmetals_neuro for updates on his journey.
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