BUTNER, North Carolina -- AJ Luedtke served the Raleigh Police Department with pride for almost 10 years before multiple sclerosis took hold. It's a disease where your immune system attacks your nerves.
Now he's lost his ability to walk, get out of bed, and (thanks to an ever-breaking wheelchair) many days, that's right where he stayed.
"It felt like I was just wasting away," he said.
A local non-profit called Clay Pot Ministries and the community stepped in to help, and surprised the medically retired officer with a handicap accessible van, a motorized wheelchair and more than $4,000.
"We had someone from the Raleigh Police Department, who unfortunately lost a family member earlier this year, and wanted him to have the van," Trudy Thornton, executive director of Clay Pot Ministries, said.
Before, he had no way of getting around, robbing him of precious moments with his 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.
"I can't run and play with them like I want to," Luedtke said. "MS has taken that freedom away from me."
"You learn to make the best out of the smallest moments," his wife, Teresa Luedtke, said. "Even if it's just, we had a great day and AJ was able to come out and spend time in the living room, today."
And that's exactly what AJ does - messing around with his new wheelchair, making it incline as far back as it can go.
"It does everything but the massage," he said.
"Don't go too far," someone in the room shouts. "That's good."
"The van gives me a lot of it back," AJ said.
"Thank you really doesn't even cover it," Teresa said. "We are so beyond blessed to be able to have this opportunity."
"Now all I need is a massage," AJ laughs.
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Retired Raleigh police officer battling MS gets surprise van, wheelchair