Gae Skager: Advocate, Nurse (Video)

Gae Skager



“Communication is such a basic need and I am very grateful for access to new methods to remain actively engaged in everyday life. I still have a voice!”

Gae Skager leads a busy life full of faith, friends and advocacy.

When she recognized she exhibited the early symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) she acted quickly and met the diagnosis without pause.

She borrowed a portable voice amplifier from the ALS Association Hrbek Sing Communication and Assistive Device Program in order to continue her job as a registered nurse teaching injury prevention community health classes with North Memorial Trauma Center. 

Gae Skager“We all naturally take for granted the amazing abilities of our body until they are stripped away by illness or injury,” Gae explained. “Gaining some sense of independence truly takes interdependence on many people. We simply need to ask for help and be willing to receive that assistance. It really does take a village!”

She has a village. Her good friends, her husband, her church, “Friends take me to my two different ALS Support groups, three different prayer groups and fun activities like going to a concert, retreat, movie, art museum, shopping or other outing.”

Every year Gae brings her village to “Walk to defeat ALS Twin Cities.” As part of Gae’s Gracious Group, she braves cold, wind and sun with a grin on her face.

Gae refused mounts for her speech device at first because she didn’t want to hinder her independence. Linda Lorentzen with the ALS society recommended she test the first prototype of the Mount’n Mover through BlueSky Designs and she immediately loved it.

“I have so much freedom to communicate and get around my home to eat, and read, and watch TV, and use my other home computer,” Gae explained. “It’s easy to use on the go and easy to teach friends to put on/take off for travel in the van.”

Gae Skager“My life is active with friends and I use the Mount’n Mover at church, ALS support group meetings, book club meetings, prayer groups and social groups. Imagine my life without it right now? I would be lost,” Gae said.

Having a stable communication device has been pivotal according to her husband. The device does not move as people jostle the table. She doesn’t need to have it transferred from room to room. The slightest movement before would have jostled her mouse and potentially disrupted communication.

Having a movable device has allowed her to continue enjoying her favorite shows such as “MadMen,” “NY Med” and such food as filet mignon, Belgian frites, and dark chocolate.

“It is imperative that we seek out accessibility resources and build a thriving community for ourselves and others,” Gae argues.

As a Benedictine Oblate(a lay monastic) Gae says, “My personal life purpose is to keep the love of Christ as the central focus of my life and to listen to others with an open heart.”

“One health care professional said that they weren’t sure if they were making a difference in rehabilitation spiritual counseling and after my talk, this person was motivated again to continue the work, realizing that they did make an impact in people’s lives.” Gae said.

Gae SkagerGae continues outreach and engagement through speaking to medical students, professionals and children. “Children usually ask me if I can watch movies and play games on my computer! Yes, yet I use my Eco Computer mainly for speaking!”

Through her advocacy, fundraising and strong community integration Gae was selected to receive the STAR award for Excellence in Assistive Technology as a consumer of assistive technology in 2009 in the state of Minnesota. “Your work in assistive technology (AT) has been noticed by your peers who felt that you should be recognized publicly for the many things you do,” the award letter explained.

During her acceptance speech, Gae thanked everyone in her “village” including the ALS Society of Minnesota, the Hrbek-Sing program and the friends who attended the ceremony. She also thanked the ALS society for connecting her with BlueSky Designs. Linda convinced Gae to work with the team to test the prototype mount.

“The Mount ‘N Mover allows me to be more independent at home and on the go. I am able to move the mount on my own when I eat or when I do my range of motion exercises with assistance and when I want to read a book. Then I can move it back in front of me to talk or take notes. Thank you!” Gae thanked BSD in her speech.

Sometimes people who watch her speak are surprised to see how social and outgoing she continues to be. In Gae’s house, life is never dull:

Gae Skager“I try to take time each day to read scripture and pray. On weekdays, a friend comes over for 45 to 60 minutes to do range of motion exercises with me. Some people volunteer to come once a week or every other week, and some come once a month. Others make a meal for our family. We have a large group of meal volunteers so while we receive a meal once or twice a week, volunteers sign up once every 6 to 9 months to bring a meal. Friends take me to my 2 different ALS Support groups, 3 different prayer groups and fun activities like going to a concert, retreat, movie, art museum, shopping or other outing. Friends volunteer to take a basket of laundry once or twice a month. Some come over to talk and visit while others work on various projects with my direction. Sometimes we go for a stroll in the neighborhood, a nearby park or by the lake.”

Gae recently celebrated the wedding of her daughter, “I’m thinking about adding a camera mount so that I don’t always have to direct my husband on taking photos for me to share with family and friends on Facebook.”