The Cerna Foundation at its Best: Tom Cottom’s Life and Death with ALS

Good-byes are never easy. The Cerna Foundation made a tragic good-bye easier for someone with ALS who required intensive care. On December 21, 2016, Tom Cottom died from a very aggressive and swift battle with ALS. As the disease progressed, he was in the Cerna Foundation’s care. The Cerna Foundation raises money, awareness and volunteers to care for those in need. Tom is survived by many friends and a sister; he never married and had no children. His dad also died from ALS at age 60. Tom did not want to take the chance of passing the disease to his children.


While Tom was not destitute by any means, the 24-7 care he required was not entirely covered by insurance – not by a long shot. His sister did not have the resources to take-on Tom’s care.  Additionally, Tom needed end of life advice, a hand to hold, and someone to assure him that in the end, it would be okay – he was not alone.

Tom had been a good friend to Cerna Home Care. Every week he volunteered his time to Michael, a Cerna client who suffered a traumatic brain injury thirty years ago. They would go for lunch, take walks together and go on excursions, like watching Angels’ baseball. Tom is also a very close friend of Marc Friedman, Cerna Home Care’s President.


Just over a year ago, symptoms Tom was experiencing (numbness and pain in extremities) proved to be the onset of ALS. The disease moved rapidly. Five months ago, Tom was working full-time. Three months ago, he was driving – and then, he lost all motor function.

Marc knew what was coming and it was barreling down like an oncoming train. Without the resources the Cerna Foundation could campaign for on his behalf, Tom would tragically fall through the cracks, making for an awful end to his life.


The Cerna Foundation quickly created an online donation portal on their website. Nearly $19,000 was raised – a mere fraction of what was required for care. So much more was needed, and this is where the Cerna Foundation shined. When Tom needed a hospital bed at home, the foundation found him one in two hours.

The Cerna Foundation procured caregivers, nurses and case managers. The foundation coordinated doctor visits, equipment and the proper nutrition and diet for Tom’s condition. The foundation also helped with details like getting Tom’s 401k’s squared away and donating his car to charity.

Tom was moved to a residential care facility at the end of his life. Bedroom furniture from his home also moved with him in order to make his environment as familiar and comfortable as possible.

In addition to medical care, the Cerna Foundation provided end of life support. Professionals sat with Tom and walked him through what was going to happen – sharing information and their time with compassion.  Marc Friedman spent time with Tom every day for seven weeks, just to hold his hand giving him that essential emotional connection.


All the while, Tom would say, “I can’t believe what you’re doing for me. “ Marc would tell him, “This is a gift for us, more than for you. “

When it was time, Tom called out for Marc. His caregivers were there, as was Marc, holding his hand as he passed.

Tom Cottom’s care reflects the Cerna Foundation at its best. From the foundation’s point, it can make a difference when resources cannot do so. Of course, none of this happens without the generosity of individuals and companies.  Marc Friedman explained, “If people can help us, we can help so many others.”


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