HomeMississippiCathy Hatch from Bartow dies after 2 years, inspiring the fight against ALS
Cathy Hatch from Bartow dies after 2 years, inspiring the fight against ALS
November 1, 2022
Even after receiving one of the cruelest diagnoses possible, Cathy Hatch did not give in to despair.
Jim Hatch, Cathy’s husband and retired pastor, said her “life verse” from the Bible was Deuteronomy 30:19, which includes the phrase, “Choose life.”
“And it was her choice every day -” I’m going to choose life today, “said Jim Hatch. “So she wasn’t afraid to die. She was not afraid of death. But she chose life. She accepted it.
Cathy Hatch’s life ended on October 25, two years after she was diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes loss of body control and has no known cure. Hatch, 64, died at her home in Bartowo, in the presence of family and friends.
A native of Mississippi, Hatch earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Mississippi University for Women and a computer science degree from Mississippi State University, said Jim Hatch. She oversaw the Mississippi Highway Patrol telecommunications network and later taught mathematics at Community College in Kentucky.
The couple moved in 1996 to Bartow, where Jim became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. Cathy changed her technology background to become the executive director of the Polk County Homeless Coalition, and later headed the local branch of the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
Hatch also worked for six years at the Peace River Center, a nonprofit behavioral health service, as a scholarship holder. She then moved to a position in the Polk County Government as a senior planner for poor healthcare. She left this job after being diagnosed with ALS in September 2020.
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“I’m going to beat it”
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing a progressive loss of the ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. While the rate of progression varies widely, along with the effect on individual abilities, the average survival time is two to five years, according to the ALS Association.
After receiving a diagnosis from a neurologist, Hatch immediately devoted herself to surviving the disease, her husband said.
“She told people,” I’m going to beat this, “said Jim Hatch. “And I think it’s common. Many people who face this kind of diagnosis, some give up – which is not a criticism. Everyone has to make their own choice, and some choose, “If that’s the way it is, I won’t fight it.” But Cathy said, “No, I’ll beat it.” And she did it in her own way. Really. I don’t see it, and Cathy wouldn’t consider it a loss.
Cathy Hatch was in the form of ALS which quickly attacked her throat. She lost her ability to speak about six months after diagnosis and became unable to eat solid food last December. Hatch used a computerized speech-generating device to type words for the machine to speak, and last December she was implanted with a feeding tube.
However, Hatch retained her ability to walk even as she began to rely on the walker.
In January, Hatch enrolled in treatment at a private clinic in Miami. She has regularly posted updates on a private Facebook group, Cathy’s ALS Team, which has over 200 members, many of whom also have ALS. Her early posts reflected optimism and documented an improvement in strength.
After shedding nearly 50 pounds since her diagnosis, Hatch was delighted to announce in April that she had regained seven pounds.
“One (word) that comes to mind was that she was always hopeful,” said Jim Hatch. “She never gave up hope. And her hope was not ultimately in cure or healing, but in hope for strength for this day. So she could look at little things while moving my fingers. “
Cathy Hatch sometimes posted Bible verses in her Facebook updates. Her faith strengthened her endurance, but destroying ALS depressed her at times, Jim Hatch said.
“There have been some struggles because probably most of us in faith want to think that maybe bad things shouldn’t happen to good people or” Why am I going through this, “he said. “And sure, she had moments like this. But the saying she really stuck to sounds almost cliche, but it’s true. That was her belief that everything would be alright in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not over. “
Jim Hatch said his wife had made friends with other patients in places such as Iran, Australia, England and Poland. They provided guidance on adjusting to a tube or applying for a disability pension. Jim Hatch said that when he speaks at his wife’s service of life ceremonies, he will emphasize her service to others.
“The only word I use to describe her is seeing myself as a servant,” he said. “And even on her two-year journey with ALS, she saw it as an opportunity to encourage others, share information, and it was really cool.”
Cathy developed a friendship with Laura Pinner, a Lakeland woman who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 52 last year. Jim and Cathy Hatch visited Pinner at her home, and then the women exchanged daily text messages, said Pinner, who lost the ability to walk shortly after her diagnosis but is still able to speak.
“She was so humble and so nice,” Pinner said on Monday. “We are sisters and companions in something that is truly destructive and yet can bring people together.”
“I have to change my focus”
Hatch posted on her Facebook group in June about a “small glitch” in her hotel room in Miami. She lost her balance and fell, breaking her ankle, an injury requiring surgical repair and eight weeks of recovery.
Jim Hatch said his wife was unable to resume treatment after this and her condition began to worsen. About two weeks before Cathy died, one morning she told her husband that they needed to talk. She admitted for the first time that she was dying.
“And she said,” So I have to change my focus. I have to start focusing on what’s coming next. I have to start looking for heaven instead of fighting on this earth, ”said Jim Hatch. “So even in her own heart and mind, she was transformed. She knew the time was coming.
Hatch arranged for care at a home hospice, and relatives and friends gathered at Bartow’s home on October 25, Cathy’s first day at home after her hospital stay. Within hours, after she had sat down in her reclining chair, she was gone.
Cathy Hatch left three adult descendants, a daughter and two sons, and eight grandchildren. Jim Hatch said he was grateful that his wife was able to keep her youngest grandson, then only three weeks old, before being hospitalized in late September.
The family welcomes friends on November 12 from 10am to 11am at First Presbyterian Church, 355 S. Florida Ave. in Bartow, followed by a celebration of life.
“She was an angel,” said Pinner. “And she was so brave. And she was determined to live her life to the full. “