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Holding On With Lou Gehrig S Optimism: Making Life More Manageable For Als Patients

Holding on with Lou Gehrig s Optimism: Making Life More Manageable for ALS Patients


Cynthia Bennett

Lou Gehrig s spirit couldn t be doused even when dealing with a devastating disease like ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). This debilitating and fatal disease hit Lou Gehrig after years of sterling performance and a string of record-breaking in the field of American baseball along the way sustaining several injuries and traumas to various parts of the body including the head and back. Sadly, Lou Gehrig s career ended with an abrupt decline in performance as the symptoms of ALS began manifesting as he clumsily fumbled with the baseball and slipped while running bases movements that have become second nature to him for so many years. The worsening of these symptoms was what prompted Lou Gehrig s wife Eleanor to seek medical attention to explain her husband s unexplained loss of strength and motor functioning. It was after a battery of tests that she learned about her husband s grim prognosis of the possibility of paralysis and consequently death within a period of three years.


ALS eventually became known as Lou Gehrig s disease. Even with his predicament, Gehrig remained steadfast and strong, sans any depression or pessimism, declaring during his retirement his intention to hold on as long as possible and to accept the inevitable when it comes, hoping for the best. Gehrig continued to live a productive life after retirement despite his worsening condition, even taking on the post of New York City Parole Commissioner only months after being diagnosed with ALS. As his motor neuron disease started claiming his body with paralysis setting in, his wife continued to assist him in performing whatever he needs to do until the time when it was entirely impossible for him to physically continue working. Soon after, Gehrig succumbed to the disease and passed away nearly two years after his ALS diagnosis.

Lou Gehrig s disease is difficult to deal with while normal motor functions deteriorate, mental functions remain the same, leaving the mind to be fully aware of what is happening right through the end. While others would think of this as a grueling ordeal, Gehrig remained optimistic through his ailment and used his mental faculties for as long as he could rather than to simply wallow in his physical disability. Life with ALS need not be as depressing nor should it be as short as Lou Gehrig s other patients with Lou Gehrig s disease are actually able to preserve their muscle function longer and some are able to outlive their life expectancy at diagnosis. While Lou Gehrig s physical condition might not be enough to sustain him, his mental functions were enough to let him enjoy the time he had left to live, maximizing whatever opportunities available to him both in his personal life and in his professional life.

One or two patients out of 100,000 people are diagnosed with Lou Gehrig s disease every year. Most of these people are prescribed with medication and recommended for physical and occupational therapies to manage the symptoms of ALS. These treatments have been found to help prolong the lives of people with ALS and delay the progression of the debilitating effects of the disease. ALS advocacy groups and organizations like the Often Awesome Army have cropped up over the years aiming to give the best possible care for people with ALS and to help further studies into the disease and its possible cures. In the absence of any real cure to prevent death in the years after an ALS diagnosis, what matters most is that the ALS patient is able to live his final years with the best quality possible to quote Lou Gehrig in his retirement speech I might have been given a bad break, but I ve got an awful lot to live for. For more information visit us www.army.oftenawesome.org

Cynthia Bennett works with ALS patients to help with as many of the difficulties of life with ALS as possible.

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