Retired Deputy Fire Chief Polidoro Creates ALS Support Website
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Retired Deputy Fire Chief Michael Polidoro directed and supervised the creation of a website to support Berkshire County residents diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) despite being in the thick of his battle with the disease.
Berkshire County ALS: Navigating Our Journey Together was developed by and for county residents to provide a helpful resource after receiving the dreaded diagnosis. Polidoro wishes to spread the word of this website so it can reach and benefit as many people as possible.
"I made him a promise that I would continue to work on the website and keep it updated," Michael's brother Thomas Polidoro said. "And this was something that he wanted, they had found it so hard to try to navigate and find, at times, what they needed and who can help them."
The website was inspired by Polidoro's recognition for the lack of ALS-specific resources and support that patients and families sometimes face in the county, as the Massachusetts Chapter of the ALS Association is in Norwood.
Polidoro is involved in a local support group of patients and families who met at Berkshire Medical Center pre-pandemic and continues to meet regularly through an internet video platform. It was established as a means of sharing fears of the unknown, offering social and emotional support, and creating a special bond between those engaged in this most unpleasant journey, Polidoro said, and his brother became friends with the members.
The group gathers information, shares knowledge, and provides support while looking to improve communication, identify new resources and care that can be provided to ALS patients and caregivers.
Polidoro explained that this group is not intended for fundraising or to provide specific recommendations, but strives to provide needed support and resources to residents diagnosed with ALS along with shared experiences to help relieve the stress and life-changing demands placed on their families.
"The intent is for compassion and patient advocacy, keeping the patient first, by helping to recognize all available resources and help they might need including those of a physical, financial, medical, or social basis," Polidoro wrote to iBerkshires. "Too often patients and families struggle to find information or care items on their own. This website is an opportunity to address such issues in the effort to improve the quality of life and care for everyone involved."
Polidoro said members of the support group and the families of members who have passed helped make his vision for the website a reality. It took months of work with help from more "tech-savvy" family members and is very important to him, Polidoro said.
Earlier this month, friends and former colleagues honored Polidoro with a procession of vehicles and lights. First-responders from around the region paid their respects to the retired Deputy Fire Chief, who retired in 2017 after being diagnosed with ALS, often called Lou Gehrig's disease.
Engine 6, which was dedicated to Polidoro two years prior, lead the procession. The engine now sports gold lettering that reads "Poly's Pride" above the windshield. Polidoro worked on the design of this engine, developed the evaluation criteria, went to build and approval meetings, and trained firefighters on it when it was delivered in April 2016.
A dedicated first responder who served in the department for 28 years, Polidoro teamed up with Lee Police Chief Jeffery Roosa, who also has ALS and retired earlier this year, to raise funds and awareness of the disease through an "Arrest and Extinguish ALS" event in Lenox which raised $50,000 in 2019.
"The outpouring of tribute to him is his legend," Thomas Polidoro said. "It's well deserved and we're proud of him."