Disabled firefighter’s wife set to be honored

Cory and Kimberly Nochta have a blended family that keeps them busy. (Kimberly Nochta/Submitted)

Kimberly Nochta is a natural caregiver. Taking care of others comes easily to the North Phoenix native, who was dubbed an “old soul” as a child.

The South Scottsdale resident followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a nurse. Her instincts kicked in when her 37-year-old Goodyear firefighter husband, Cory, was diagnosed with ALS on Oct. 19, 2020, forcing him to medically retire late last year.

She took on a second job all the while making time for their blended family and Cory’s doctor’s appointments.

Helping One Woman Goodyear will honor Kimberly on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at The Wigwam’s Sachem Ballroom, 300 E. Wigwam Boulevard, Litchfield Park.

Founded in Fresno, California, Helping One Woman supports “one woman at a time move forward on her journey through times of devastating trouble and loss.”

Each Helping One Woman chapter honors a recipient each month whose name is drawn from nominations submitted by women in attendance and randomly selected at the previous month’s dinner.

Attendees purchase their own meal and provide a $10 or greater cash gift at each month’s dinner. This monetary gift the participants offer to each recipient supplements their income. According to the website, “The overwhelming emotional and heartfelt support that we give our recipients is the energy behind the Helping One Woman organization.”

Kimberly was nominated by Zack Renschler, the director of the United Goodyear Firefighters Charities, and her name was chosen randomly by a previous honoree. The United Goodyear Firefighters L4005 is teaming with Helping One Woman for the event.

“It is beautiful,” Renschler said of the dinner. “A lot of the attention is on Cory, which I totally understand. He was diagnosed with ALS, and watching what it’s doing to his body is hard. This is a good opportunity to highlight Kim. She’s the backbone of that family.

“On another level, it just describes how good of a person and character she is. Cory gets a lot of the spotlight, as he should. Secretly, Kim’s a hero, too.”

Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a rare, fatal neurological disease that primarily affects the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking and talking.

Longtime acquaintances

Cory and Kimberly were born and raised in the North Phoenix area, graduating from Shadow Mountain High School in 2001 and 2000, respectively.

Kimberly’s brother played Little League baseball with Cory, but the two didn’t connect until they were older. They married in 2018, the same year Cory was hired by the Goodyear Fire Department.

“It’s been really good for both of us to have a partner who works in service and helping others,” said Kimberly, a labor and delivery nurse.

“We have a blended family. I have two boys; my oldest son has autism. Cory’s kiddos are almost the same age. He has a son and daughter. It’s a busy life with chauffeuring them around to stuff and everything that goes with raising school-aged kids.”

Cory knew something was wrong in the spring 2020 when, after getting out of the shower in the station, his left toe wouldn’t extend forward from the weight of his sock.

“I thought it was strange,” said Cory, who played football at Phoenix College under Ron Wolfley. “It happened again and again, and then all of my toes started not working properly. That’s when I knew something was definitely wrong. From the many different tests I had, we ruled out everything. I made sure that they weren’t going to miss anything. Eventually, through an EMG test, I was diagnosed with ALS.”

Electromyography measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle. The test is used to help detect neuromuscular abnormalities. During the test, one or more small needles (also called electrodes) are inserted through the skin into the muscle.

Inspired by their service careers, the couple advocated for a correct diagnosis for Cory.

“I think it helps that we have a medical background,” Kimberly said.

“Not everyone goes into appointments like that. Cory had a fairly quick diagnosis. Some people spend years and have multiple surgeries before they find out it’s ALS. It’s a tough diagnosis to get. It’s by exception.”

A cure isn’t available for ALS, but Cory has stem cells infused monthly to slow the progression. It worked initially, but Kimberly said she’s not sure it’s making a difference now. The disease is fatal, but doctors give Nochta hope.

“There are a couple medications that don’t have the best side effects, but they can help extend time until you are on a ventilator, maybe a couple months,” she said.

“That’s not anything Cory wants to do. We aren’t taking part in any of the medications. You have to weigh those pros and cons of medication. For Cory, it wasn’t anything he wanted to do at this point.”

Cory said the support his family has received has been “amazing.”

“They’ve been helping us from the time I was diagnosed to now trying to help raise money,” he said slowly. “The guys and gals I worked with are incredible.”

Goodyear firefighter Michael Gugel, who lives in Peoria, went through the academy with Cory in 2018, and that’s when he met Kimberly.

“She’s always been like the fun mom,” Gugel said with a laugh.

“A lot of us were a little bit younger who were getting hired. We could call Cory ‘dad’ as a joke. She would come in and she’d always take care of us. She has a very sweet personality and is very giving of her time. She’s a labor and delivery nurse. She works there most of the time.

“Then she picked up a second job as a mobile IV person. She’s the light behind the scenes. She’s taking care of Cory. She’s always positive. She never gets down — even when the times are hard. She’s never once complained. She’s never once felt sorry for herself. They always have the most positive outlook on everything. They have tons of support and love.”

She rarely asks for help either, Gugel said. The family is trying to save more than $150,000 to purchase a van to transport Cory when he needs a power chair. So far, the Arizona Cardinals and Desert Financial Credit Union donated a total of $25,000. Watch a documentary at https://bit.ly/

NochtaDocumentary.

“It’s just a drop in the bucket of what they actually need,” Gugel said. “It’s been a challenge, but it’s been an honor for the two of us to come alongside them and really figure out how we can best help them at that time.”