Last year I started working for a company called Avertech. In starting this new employment I met a man named Matt Ross. He trained me on how to handle the calls and use the ticketing system and other various details that may or may not be required in the new position. Over the time I came to respect him as a co-worker and then a friend. Here we are just over a year later still plucking away at the calls and tickets and he is still just as friendly as the day I met him. Some time back we noticed that Matt was having some difficulties with his legs but he just shrugged it off as getting older until one day a doctor sent him to The Mayo clinic. Once there Matt was given the news that would change his life forever. He was diagnosed with ALS or as most know it Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I do not mention all this for you to pity this man but in order to garner support. He has now gotten to the point where he can only work (yes he works)a few hours a week but his medical bills are amounting to a small fortune that he will never be capable of surmounting. There has been a benefit rallied for Matt by some fellow feel gooders on Facebook at Matt Ross Benefit Expo. I implore every person that reads this to please pass it on to everyone you know. Place it on Facebook, Tweet about it, share it on Digg, Google+, Stumble Upon and any other social outlet you can including email. I would like to see Matt and his family to worry less about how to pay for ALS and focus more on how to live with it. Please help in any way you can.
A little about ALS
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. “A” means no or negative. “Myo” refers to muscle, and “Trophic” means nourishment-“No muscle nourishment.” When a muscle has no nourishment, it “atrophies” or wastes away. “Lateral” identifies the areas in a person’s spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening (“sclerosis”) in the region.
As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement. Early symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. When muscles no longer receive the messages from the motor neurons that they require to function, the muscles begin to atrophy (become smaller). Limbs begin to look “thinner” as muscle tissue atrophies.
Nerves in ALS
What Types of Nerves Make Your Body Work Properly?
(from Living with ALS, Manual 1: What’s It All About?)
The body has many kinds of nerves. There are those involved in the process of thinking, memory, and of detecting sensations (such as hot/cold, sharp/dull), and others for vision, hearing, and other bodily functions. The nerves that are affected when you have ALS are the motor neurons that provide voluntary movements and muscle power. Examples of voluntary movements are your making the effort to reach for the phone or step off a curb; these actions are controlled by the muscles in the arms and legs.
The heart and the digestive system are also made of muscle but a different kind, and their movements are not under voluntary control. When your heart beats or a meal is digested, it all happens automatically. Therefore, the heart and digestive system are not involved in ALS. Breathing also may seem to be involuntary. Remember, though, while you cannot stop your heart, you can hold your breath – so be aware that ALS may eventually have an impact on breathing.
Although the cause of ALS is not completely understood, the recent years have brought a wealth of new scientific understanding regarding the physiology of this disease.
While there is not a cure or treatment today that halts or reverses ALS, there is one FDA approved drug, riluzole, that modestly slows the progression of ALS as well as several other drugs in clinical trials that hold promise.
Importantly, there are significant devices and therapies that can manage the symptoms of ALS that help people maintain as much independence as possible and prolong survival. It is important to remember that ALS is a quite variable disease; no two people will have the same journey or experiences. There are medically documented cases of people in whom ALS ‘burns out,’ stops progressing or progresses at a very slow rate. No matter what your individual course or situation may be, The ALS Association and your medical team are here to help.