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For eight months in 2006, Elaine Bannon and her husband, Chuck Bannon — both Ford engineers — kept a secret at work.
He was losing his ability to move and was going to die from Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Meanwhile, Elaine Bannon was embarking on the biggest challenge of her career as chief engineer of the Ford Edge and the Lincoln MKX crossovers.
Chuck Bannon tried to keep his life as normal as possible, until he fell down some stairs at work, forcing the couple to tell some coworkers and Ford.
“I was just dumbfounded,” said Rich Kreder, vehicle engineering manager for Ford Edge. “People who didn’t know her probably didn’t know something was wrong.”
A month after the Bannons disclosed the illness, Ford launched the all-new Edge. The vehicle was a success — more than 400,000 have been sold in the U.S. — and a redesigned version is due in showrooms in September.
Elaine Bannon, whose husband died in April 2009, remains the chief engineer on the new models — a testament to her resilience.
Every day, workers across the country like Bannon try to balance work and caring for an aging or sick relative. It’s something employers will be confronting even more as America’s population ages.
In Bannon’s case, she said the Edge project helped give her life a sense of balance during an incredibly difficult, emotional period. “It was keeping me mentally healthy,” she said. “And I do think that what we did with these products is something special … and it comes from personal relationships and I think it comes in part from what I went through.”
Care For Her Husband Exacts Emotional Toll
On Sundays, Elaine Bannon goes for a run, comes home, and sits by a pond in her backyard in front of a sundial bearing the ashes of her husband.
There, she reflects on her marriage of nearly 10 years to Chuck Bannon, a reserved Ford engineer who competitively raced motorcycles until he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

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