A Fight for Their Life: The History of ALS Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

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Did you know that over 30,000 people in the United States, ages 40 to 70 have been affected by a deadly and crippling disease that can affect anyone at any time?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS, has affected Athletes such as famous Baseball player Lou Gehrig, heavy weight-boxing champion, Ezzard Charles, as well as ball player Catfish Hunter. These professional sports figures were able to fight to win each game (or match) but were unable to ultimately fight off this disease.

LS also referred to as the Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurodegenerative disease that attacks the motor nerve cells responsible for muscle action to control, such as those in the arms, legs, and face.

Approximately a century ago a French neurologist Jean-Marie Charcot was the first to note symptoms of ALS and named the fatal syndrome based on what he found out. Charcot was a noted French neurologist who has been called “the Father of Neurology.” He explains ALS weakens the muscles worsening until the body is totally paralyzed. It effects the limbs first which makes it hard to move or it can start with facial muscles and effect speech, and the ability to swallow.”

It begins in the top of the brain causing damage to the upper and lower motor neurons, which cause weakness, stiffness and paralysis. Sensory neurons and consciousness is not effected, patients with ALS die of respiratory failure. Unfortunately, at this point in time ALS is an incurable disease, and many people are struggling for their lives trying to fight it. Why should we care here and now about ALS? Thousands of people worldwide have the condition and every ninety minutes someone is diagnosed with the disease and there is a life expectancy of three to five years with people with the disease.

Many people like myself have never heard of the Lou Gehrig’s disease until we saw social media awareness occur “The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.” The ALS association raised over a $100 million dollars for ALS related charities. Celebrities take on the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” as a special note Matt Damon took on the ice bucket challenge with toilet water. A well-known Professional baseball player Derek Jeter, who has recently retired after 20 years, had also taken on the ice bucket challenge.

ALS is an incurable and progressive condition effecting over five thousand people a year in the U.S. Thirty thousand people die within three to five years from this fatal disease, ten percent are due to hereditary factors, and most people are generally slim built or played serious sports. The crazy thing about people with this disease is that their brains are still able to function, and they know what’s going on and what’s happening to them and yet there is nothing they can do about it. This disease is very deteriorating for those people who are suffering from this awful disease.

ALS has received a lot of attention in the media with a fund-raiser called, “the new Ice Bucket Challenge.” See separate story this issue]. Henry Kudiseh MD, a professor at NYIT; says, “As there is more awareness among physicians and patients there will be more ALS diagnoses.” Nicholas DiFato, a graduate of Fairfield University, knew about ALS before hearing and seeing the Ice Bucket Challenge go viral over social media sites. Nick’s brother’s friend was diagnosed with ALS a few years ago. He and his friends all contributed and took on the ice bucket challenge on behalf of his brother’s friend.

Stephanie Munves, a young mother, was also personally touched by someone she knew with ALS and was also encouraged her to take on the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.” Interestingly she said, “ By doing the ice bucket challenge she became more aware of this fatal illness.”

As seen medical history has been filled with a large range of diseases and illnesses, ranging from the common cold to deadly frightening killers. Some are easily treatable and others can be terminal, but some of the worst are those that still remain without a cure, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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A Fight for Their Life: The History of ALS Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis