Northwest NEWS

August 30, 1999

Features

Rod & Randy today

Rod and Randy Halvorson in their specially-equipped wheelchairs.
Photo by Rex Knight.

1969 MDA State Poster Children

The Halvorson twins as the 1969 MDA State Poster Children.

softball team

Rod and Randy Halvorson in 1996 with softball team members.

trophy collection

Rod and Randy Halvorson in 1996 with part of their trophy collection.
Above three photos courtesy of the Halvorsons.

Halvorson twins prevail despite challenges with muscular dystrophy

by Carol Edwards

   Rodney (Rod) and Randall (Randy) Halvorson have coached more winning adult softball teams than most coaches and have the trophies to prove it. Out on the field to coach the team for practices and competitions, or on road trips to state championships, the two are hard to find at home during softball season.

   What is remarkable is that the 41-year-old Woodinville twins are totally paralyzed by Duchenne muscular dystrophy, have around-the-clock care, travel in a specially-designed van, and coach their teams from high-tech motorized wheelchairs.

   In 1968 and 1969, Rod and Randy were named the Washington State Poster Children for the campaign against muscular dystrophy. They traveled to Olympia, met with Governor Dan Evans, and were featured on posters.

   "We have three older children," said their father, Elling Halvorson. "When the twins were three, we sensed there was something wrong. We took them to the doctor, who said they were fine. When they were five, we took them to the University Children's clinic, where they were diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and we were told that they would only live through their teenage years. My wife, Barbara, and I went to the Arboretum and wept. After getting over the shock, we decided to try and give Rodney and Randy as much of a normal life as possible."

   Rod and Randy went through public school in their wheelchairs, graduating from Redmond High School in 1978 and then taking classes at Bellevue Community College. They regularly attend church, and in their youth participated in youth programs and summer camp. They also were active in Scouts. Over the years, they have worn out five different models of wheelchairs.

   When they lost the ability to breathe on their own nineteen years ago, Rod and Randy had tracheotomies and were put on respirators to breathe. A battery-operated respirator on the back of their wheelchairs allows them to be mobile.

   Featured on the front page of the April 1996 issue of New Mobility magazine, the Halvorsons were the subject of an article, "The Vent Life--Who Says You're Out of the Game?"

   They are most definitely "in the game." Muscular dystrophy has not affected much, other than their mobility. Their general health is excellent. They are both smart, good-looking, have a great sense of humor, and are extremely social. They are able to feel and have normal human responses, including pain, which requires their attendants to adjust their legs, arms, and necks during the day.

   Both Rod and Randy frequently pace back and forth in their wheelchairs, which they are able to run using an infa-red sensor with a 1/4" finger movement. They can use the computer through a mouth-driven sip and puff technology.

   They keep up with the latest news by reading with the help of an automatic page-turner, are huge sports fans and watch television, visit Internet sites (even buying and selling stock online), and have regular conversations with friends. Rod and Randy each have their own phone line.

   They host or attend social functions with their many friends. Their 40th birthday party was held at Marymoor Park with more than 500 of their closest friends and family in attendance.

   "Their many friends and activities are a testimony to the reality that happiness is self-determined," said longtime friend David Knight.

   They are able to talk on the ingoing breath. When addressing groups, they use a device, designed by their father, that allows them to speak on both the ingoing and outgoing breaths.

   Their daily routine takes a lot of time in the morning, to get up, shower, and dress. All their respiratory equipment has to be sterilized daily. They have to be careful not to contract any infections. They are usually ready by 10 a.m. and then go all day, with bedtime around 11 p.m. or later, depending on their social schedule.

   Although they are living in their parents' home, they function on their own with the assistance of their attendants. Many times they supervise the cooking of their meals and enjoy their salt-water fish tank. They are known to go on out-of-state trips.

   And what are Rod and Randy doing over the Labor Day weekend?

   "We are going with 20 of our friends on Friday to see the performance of Chicago at Chateau Ste. Michelle," they said.