When Adam Benton joined the Police Academy in 1991, he did it because the idea of spending his life in service to others was the only thing he could imagine doing. He could have gone down any path he wanted, but he wasn’t interested in making more money than he knew what to do with, and gaining an elite status or receiving corporate perks held no appeal to him. He just wanted to help people. He wanted to protect them, to create a community in which they felt safe… he wanted to be the person who could give second chances to those who needed them.
He became a police officer and spent 21 years as a devoted public servant. They were the best years of his life.
One of the lessons that, unfortunately, we learn early on is that bad things happen to good people. There is not necessarily a reason you can assign to everything that occurs in the world – some things are just random, disorganized chaos. Because if things did happen for a reason… it wouldn’t have been Adam.
It started with cramps. Adam was able to logically attribute muscle soreness and weakness to other factors for a while… but soon it became apparent something else was happening. Something much worse. Sometimes, he told us, he’d just be sitting on the couch and his muscles would begin violently spasming. “How many other guys do you know,” he joked, “who can sit on the couch and do a full workout?!” He kept light of the situation with humor, and still does, but it was anything but funny. It was terrifying.
By late 2012, the symptoms had worsened to a point that they could no longer be ignored. After rounds of testing and weeks of holding his breath, the diagnosis came in: Adam had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS. This unforgiving nervous system disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) slowly breaks down nerve cells – compromising them until they cannot function properly as muscle support. There is no known cause, and there is no known cure.
Still struggling to cope with his diagnosis, Adam knew one thing for sure – he did not want to give his disease the power to take away the thing he loved most in the world, apart from his wife and sons. He would not let it take away his job. So, he decided he would keep working, in whatever capacity, until he no longer could. “I knew I wasn’t going anywhere,” he said light-heartedly, “until I needed a cane to get out of my car!”
So, he stayed at his position until 2013, when an event occurred that marked the final chapter in his career as a First Responder. One night on patrol, he was the first to arrive at the scene of an armed ATM robbery. He and the offender got into “a scuffle,” and while he and the other man were struggling for their weapons, Adam’s muscles seized up on him. He had lost control of his body. Finally, Adam was able to take the offender into custody, but it had been a close call. Too close.
That was the moment Adam knew he could no longer be a police officer. “I couldn’t fulfill my duties anymore and I didn’t want anyone to get hurt because of me.”