Randy Czajka (File 2007)

When members of the North Riverside Village Board met Monday, March 3 for their first meeting of March, nearly all of them wore small purple ribbons on their lapels and collars.

The ribbons were a show of support for their former colleague, Randy Czajka, who served as a trustee from 1991 until May 2013.

Czajka for the past five years has been battling a rare degenerative nerve disease called multiple systems atrophy (MSA), a fatal condition that has caused him to progressively lose motor skills, speech and other bodily functions.

After he resigned in May 2013, Czajka’s wife, Deborah, was named to replace him as village trustee. Czajka is a former president of the Komarek School District 94 Board of Education.

In February, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr., who served alongside Czajka as a trustee from 2009-13, declared March as MSA Awareness Month in North Riverside.

Deborah Czajka noted that people suffering from MSA usually live between five and nine years after first exhibiting symptoms of the disease. There’s no cure and research funds are lacking, because the disease isn’t as well-known as conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.

“The first step in accelerating research into MSA’s causes, potential treatments and a cure is to raise public awareness,” Czajka said.

The purple ribbons are a tangible effort to do that.

Anyone wishing to learn more about MSA or donate money to aid in research can visit the Multiple System Atrophy Awareness website at www.msaawareness.org.