WASHINGTON - Former St. John’s head basketball coach Pat Behan, has been battling ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease since May of last year. Although it has affected his body — he now uses a BiPAP to assist with breathing and an eye gaze device and barking to communicate — it has not touched his heart. It has not dimmed his mind.
He is still punching back.
For Behan, the battle with ALS has intensified.
In the five months since earning Coach of the Year honors and his Cadets capturing the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship, Behan spent time in the ICU as a result of developing pneumonia and blood clots in his lungs. He now uses a BiPAP to assist his breathing, an eye gaze device and a voice banking machine to communicate.
Through it all, he says it’s the people around him that helps Behan stay strong.
"I had to keep a sense of normalcy and our whole program at SJC allowed it, along with my girlfriend Natalie. And being able to rely on her and so many dear friends behind the #BehanStrong team," said Behan.
#BehanStrong, more than a hashtag, the platform has drawn national attention, garnering emotional and financial support from near and far.
"It means everything to have a village of support from so many people. It humbles me in a time of tragedy," said Behan.
Though this debilitating condition may continue to wear on his body, Behan says it cannot touch his brain.
"It cannot be put into words. The decline in physical abilities even though my mind is stronger and sharper than ever," said Behan.
Behan’s cost of care now exceeds $10,000 per week. The #BehanStrong second annual Fun(d) Fest is in Olney on September 16, with proceeds going towards Behan's care and treatment. There will be cornhole, live music and much more.