Kimberly grew up in a military family. Her father was career Army and was relocated every few years. As a result, she and her brother and two sisters (one of which is a fraternal twin) were able to experience different cultures and were taught to accept differences. “Normal” had a different definition with every move. When her family was stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia during her high school years, she met Jin Kim. He was two years ahead of her in school, but they dated through his senior year and while he was a freshman at Georgia Tech. The following year, her family moved to Virginia where Kimberly completed her senior year. To her parents’ surprise, she and Jin remained together through that year and halfway through her freshman year at James Madison University.
After Kimberly declared a major in Computer Science, she decided to transfer to Georgia Tech for her sophomore year. Jin had influenced her decision a bit by repeatedly telling her about Georgia Tech’s outstanding CS program; she and Jin began dating again shortly after school began. Kimberly went through Rush as a way to meet new friends and surprised herself by pledging with Phi Mu Fraternity. She also joined GT’s club soccer team and became involved with the Cooperative program. As a Co-op, she would work for Lotus Development on their WordPro software full-time during winter and summer quarters through her junior year. In the spring of Kimberly’s junior year, she began working part-time at Georgia Tech Research Institute as a student assistant to make some extra money during her school quarters. College seemed to pass quickly as Kimberly stayed busy with classes, Phi Mu, soccer, and work. She graduated in the summer of ’99 with highest honor.
After graduation, Kimberly began work with Radiant Systems as a technical consultant. She only lasted three months in that role before requesting a move to software development. Fortunately, they were able to find a position for her developing their new web-based offering. A few years later, that portion of the company split from Radiant and became BlueCube Software.
In the spring of 2001, after dating for ten years, Jin and Kimberly had a conversation about February 2, 2002. This date happened to fall on a Saturday and 2 happened to be Kimberly’s favorite number. If you speak with Jin, he’ll swear a gauntlet was thrown. If you talk with Kimberly, she’ll say it was a gentle push in the right direction. Regardless, Jin proposed in July, and Kimberly married her high school sweetheart on February 2, 2002.
Four years later, she was mid-way through her first pregnancy when she began having problems typing at work. It had become harder for her index finger to reach and depress certain keys. Since Kimberly was pregnant at the time, she spoke with her obstetrician about the problem. It was dismissed as pregnancy related.
Jin and Kimberly’s son, Luke, was born in June. She waited until he was two weeks old before scheduling an appointment with her primary care doctor. At that time, the only noticeable symptoms were a general weakness in her left hand and an uncooperative index finger. These symptoms made it very difficult to nurse Luke, however, and she wanted treatment. Kimberly’s primary care doctor sent her to a hand specialist who in turn referred her to a neurologist. Kimberly was given shoulder exercises to try and had a neck MRI to determine whether a pinched nerve could be to blame. Since the MRI came back normal, an EMG and needle study were performed in late August. At her follow-up appointment the next month, the neurologist mentioned the possibility of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Through a family connection, Kimberly was able to get an appointment in early October at the Emory ALS Center with Dr. Jonathan Glass. By October, Kimberly was experiencing more symptoms: her left hand was considerably weaker and that arm and shoulder had lost strength as well, she had less coordination when walking and noticed stairs were more difficult to climb, muscle spasms could be felt along her left arm and hand, her hand would cramp with use, and she noticed extreme atrophy in her hand and forearm. The Emory appointment lasted about six hours. They redid the EMG and did a very extensive needle study; her legs, arms, back, and tongue were all included. At the end of the appointment, Dr. Glass agreed with her original neurologist. He would not be conclusive, but Dr. Glass did say that he thought she had ALS. Jin and Kimberly did okay at first, but when they started talking about the drug they wanted her to start taking and told her she could not continue to nurse Luke while taking it, she broke down. Jin followed suit. Jin and Kimberly wanted them to explore every option, so agreed to a spinal tap which would allow for other possibilities. Unfortunately, the spinal fluid was normal and their diagnosis was confirmed.