My friend Richard, pictured above with his daughter Amelia, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease or just A.L.S. He was diagnosed five years ago, and in the last year he has had a rough time of it.
Only having a passing familiarity with A.L.S., I went to Wikipedia: A.L.S. is a form of motor neuron disease. A.L.S. is a progressive, fatal disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. The disorder causes muscle weakness, they develop fasciculations (twitches) because of denervation, and eventually atrophy because of that denervation. Affected individuals may ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement; bladder and bowel sphincters and the muscles responsible for eye movement are usually, but not always, spared.... Doesn't sound too pleasant. It is also what has robbed Stephen Hawking of his human voice and has confined him to a chair for so many years.
From Richard's A.L.S. 2010 website where he was updating everyone on his year:
I have effectively lost the use of my hands and arms. I can still do a few minor things but I need someone to help feed me, dress me, etc. I have a personal support worker coming in a couple of times a day to feed me - I am not so thrilled about this - but I have at least managed to persuade her to pretend that the spoon is an airplane.Richard has certainly not lost his sense of humour. Something that has to be tough when you risk your shoulders dislocating when standing too long - even if he says they make a cool clicking sound when it happens.
I have to admit it was tough to read what Richard wrote - even if it was with a sense of humour. I was trying to remember how long I have known Richard. Since probably Grade 1 or even Kindergarten. We went to the Toronto French School together till I left at the end of Grade nine. It seems like a lifetime ago. Richard is probably one of my first school friends. While we have not really kept in touch over the years - till social networking sites came along at any rate, I think of friends from that time now and then. And to see Richard having the challenges he is having makes me want to help him out even though I don't have the money to do so.
Richard is having his sixth annual hike to raise money for A.L.S. at the Kortright Centre for Conservation in Woodbridge (map near Toronto) on Saturday September 25, 2010. His goal this year is to raise $25,000, and so far he has had nearly $7000 in donations. In the past five years, the hikes have raised almost $90,000 for ALS research.
If you are in the area, grab some pledge forms from his site, come out and support him in finding a cure for A.L.S. If you can't come out, or don't live near Toronto, you can make quick donations directly through his page.
Richard is a good guy. Help him in his quest to cure A.L.S. if you can.
**photos used with Richard's permission from his A.L.S. page.