Battling ALS, Kim Ordile still can share a powerful message of faith

With her voice silenced by ALS, Kim Ordile uses a special computer than detects her eye movements and converts them to words to communicate with family and friends and to write her ministry blog. (Staff photo by Tonya Rodgers)

Imagine not being able to speak to your husband or talk to your children. Imagine not being able to hug your children as they head off to school every day. Imagine not being able to perform the normal daily activities that most of us take for granted.

This is the reality that Kim Ordile lives now, but even in the struggle, her ministry continues.

Mrs. Ordile grew up with a desire to minister to others through teaching. Right after college, she traveled to Brazil and Portugal to teach children and minister to them. When Mrs. Ordile was not teaching in schools, she always found a way to work, spreading the Gospel.

Mrs. Ordile met her husband Lou at a Christian camp in Florida, where she was ministering one summer. She and Lou began dating in 1999, during which time they were at opposite ends of the country – she in Seattle, and he in New York.  They married in December 2000 and moved to New Jersey.

“Kim has always wanted to help people who have the greatest needs,” Lou Ordile said.

At first, Mrs. Ordile’s legs began to lock, and she began having trouble walking. She often would trip over things, then she noticed her arms began to get weak.

Mrs. Ordile and her husband knew something was wrong. They saw at least a dozen doctors before getting a diagnose 18 months later. Mrs. Ordile was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. As there is no one test that determines the disease, which affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, it is diagnosed mainly by a person’s symptoms and a series of tests to rule out other causes of those symptoms.

Mr. and Mrs. Ordile both were working at a Christian School in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., at the time.  Mrs. Ordile’s condition progressed to the point in 2015 that she was no longer able to work. In June 2016, the family left New Jersey and moved to Saluda County, where Kim’s parents, Ron and Carol Kenyon, own a house off Hwy. 378.

As Mrs. Ordile’s health has continued to deteriorate, she has gone from walking with a cane to a walker, then to a scooter. She now has to use an electric wheelchair for mobility. She has lost her speech and also now has to eat through a feeding tube. A tracheotomy allows her to breathe, and she relies on her family for all of her physical needs.

The Ordiles have two loving teenage children who take an active role in her care.

Her husband Lou, children Jessa and Joe and the congregation of Radius Church have gathered around Kim Ordile during her time of need.

Jessa is a junior at Saluda High School and plays on the volleyball team when she is not caring for her mother.

“It was hard when my mom was first diagnosed,” Jenna said. “We were bitter because we did not know what to expect. But we are still able to talk to each other through her communication device, and I feel very close to her.”

Jenna’s mother, though her voice has been taken by ALS, “still tells me what to do — and we can talk without interrupting each other,” Jenna joked.

Mrs. Ordile is able to communicate with others through an eye-gaze machine called the Tobii Dynavox. This device allows Kim to locate letters and images on a computer screen with her eyes, which choose the right words to be displayed on the screen and triggers an electric voice generator.

The Ordiles’ son, Joe, is a senior at Saluda High School. He enjoys playing baseball and hanging out with his friends when not helping with his mother.

“Due to the gradual progression of the disease, it has been a little easier to deal with. Our lifestyle feels like normal now,” Joe said.

Through all of this struggle, Lou Ordile left his job so he could take care of his wife 24 hours a day.  He rarely leaves Kim, other than to go grocery shopping, and occasionally has lunch with some of his male friends to take a brief break from the emotional and physical challenges of being a caregiver.

Lou, Kim, and their children attend Radius Church in Saluda County and have come to love the people there.

“Radius has such a diverse group of people, and we can feel the love of God there,” Mr. Ordile said.

Different groups from the church and community have given generously to help with the family’s growing needs. Kim Ordile still hosts a weekly Bible study at her house with several of the ladies from the church. She also published a devotional book in November 2018 and has published more than 100 blogs online.

“Kim’s heart has always been in ministry of some type, and she did not want to let this disease keep her from ministering to others,” Lou Ordile adds.

Mrs. Ordile is able to write using her eye-gaze machine and has recently started sharing her ministry through painting with her mouth. She paints words on canvas that represent Biblical scriptures.

“Even though I communicate differently now, I like to hear other people’s stories, their thoughts, and their feelings,” she wrote.

Rise Up and Walk, Kim Ordile’s devotional book, is available for $10 online at timeinthedesert.com and her blogs can be viewed at unfetteredministeries.wixsite.com/kimordile.

Story by Tonya Rodgers / Published January 9, 2020