Nearly 15,000 Americans suffer from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) with an average of 5,000 new cases each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ALS is a progressive disease that causes nerve cells to stop working and die, resulting in muscles becoming weak and paralyzed. The illness is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for the late first baseman and power hitter for the New York Yankees. Gehrig was stricken with the neurodegenerative disease that causes muscular atrophy and forced into retirement at age 36. It claimed his life just two years later.
The effects of the disease vary, and many people can see improved quality of life in their last years with the help of nationally accredited clinics like the two operated by experts at Augusta University. The ALS team sees patients on the second Friday of each month in Augusta and the fourth Friday of each month at a satellite clinic in Macon. They assess disease progression, functional status and family concerns, as well as equipment, transportation and referral needs. In addition, family and caregiver training and support are incorporated into the time spent with each patient.
ALS treatment can cost the patient hundreds of thousands of dollars, and many of the therapies and special equipment needs are not covered by health insurance. Fundraising support is critically needed to purchase wheelchair ramps, home modifications and speech and breathing assistance devices. Funds are also used to purchase items for patients and families who are under financial strains due to ALS.