Longtime Minnesota special ed teacher searches for answers after ALS diagnosis

The Prior Lake Savage Education Association is asking for the community's help in supporting an educator of nearly three decades who was just diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

When it comes to high school sports, there are few left Brad Bulver hasn’t coached. But this year, you'll find him on the sidelines.

"Teaching and coaching are his life," said his wife, Leah Bulver.

When he noticed his arm twitching in January and then his shoulder going numb in March, at first, the couple didn't think anything of it.

"Brad's always doing a million projects around the house. We just assumed he had maybe overdone it with painting or some house project," Leah Bulver said.

"The more and more the summer progressed, it was just too hard. I was too tired and then, I couldn't really walk and couldn't really golf," Brad Bulver said.

Aug. 1 was the first date a doctor said it out loud: ALS. The Bulvers have had trips to Park Nicollet Health Partners and Mayo Clinic ever since to confirm the diagnosis.

"I still wasn't accepting. There were still some other things it could have been and so I was really I was really counting on that being the case. Kind of still am, actually," said Brad Bulver.

Brad Bulver's been a teacher for 29 years. He’s spent 26 years with the Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools, where he’s worked with special education students who have emotional or behavioral disorders. But he said he was asked to resign in March, as he was struggling to catch up on paperwork.

"Now, what we know is that Brad had ALS. Obviously, we didn't know that in March. The doctors think he had ALS for at least since early 2022, and so we know that likely impacted his ability to teach some of the most challenging students in the school district," Leah Bulver said.

A spokesperson for the district told FOX 9 in a statement: "The district was saddened to learn of Brad’s illness. We continue to support him in his journey during this difficult time."

Despite his employment status, Prior Lake High School honored Brad during Friday night's homecoming game. He and his family said they’re so thankful for the community's support.

"It's just been an overwhelming response, and I think it's a testament to Brad and who he is as a person and the kind of teacher that he was," Leah Bulver said.

He said he does hope to teach again. In the meantime, the Bulvers are shifting their focus toward making their Edina home wheelchair accessible while they look for answers, clinical trials and treatments.

"I'll be a guinea pig. I'm all for it. If it helps others and myself, I'm all for it," Brad Bulver said.

About 10 percent of ALS cases are considered familial, meaning there's a family history. He said he will soon undergo genetic testing as he did have a great aunt who had ALS.

An online fundraiser has been created to support Bulver and his family. Click here to donate.