Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease characterized by a degeneration of motor nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease attacks the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. The nerve cells that control muscle cells are gradually lost.
A.L.S. ultimately robs those affected of every physical activity. It is a debilitating disease that can make every breath a struggle. The harshest reality of the disease is the patient’s consciousness of its progression. The victims virtually become prisoners in their own bodies. Despite years of research, the cause of A.L.S. has yet to be determined, making the search for a cure all that more difficult.
Did you know…
- New York Yankees superstar Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with A.L.S. in 1939. He died two years later at age 38.
- Currently, 30,000 Americans have the disease with over 5,600 people in the United States being diagnosed with A.L.S. each year.
- The life expectancy of an A.L.S. patient averages two to five years, although the disease progresses at different rates in each individual.
- About 5% to 10% of people with A.L.S. have an inherited form of the disease.
- More people die every year of A.L.S. than of multiple sclerosis or Huntington’s disease.
- It can cost up to $250,000 per year to care for an A.L.S. patient as the disease progresses.
“…I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for." Those are the words spoken by Lou Gehrig on July 4, 1939 when he announced his retirement from the sport of baseball.
The first baseman for the New York Yankees had been one of the most prolific baseball players of his time; earning MVP honors on two occasions. The Iron Horse, as he was known, amassed records that are still benchmarks in today’s power sport of baseball. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis ended his career that spanned 13 years and 2,130 consecutive games.
This disease, maybe more than others, has a tremendous effect on families both physically and emotionally. The inevitable decline of patients takes a toll on the family who can only watch helplessly as their loved ones slowly become incapacitated. As small tasks become insurmountable the dedication of caretakers becomes increasingly more important.
Treatment focuses on helping the person cope with symptoms and avoid complications for as long as possible. Physical, occupational and speech therapy may be helpful in maintaining strength for varying lengths of time. In some cases drug therapy has proven helpful to temporarily relieve symptoms to make the patients more comfortable.
Although the prognosis is bleak for the nearly 30,000 Americans that suffer from A.L.S., the community of patients and their families truly live each day to it’s fullest. The words spoken by Lou Gehrig in 1939 are echoed in the way that A.L.S. patients live today. Embracing each day, knowing that they, too, have a lot to live for.
That is why the A.L.S. Family Charitable Foundation works so hard.