Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, causes degeneration of the neurons/nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons begin to degenerate, causing muscle atrophy and gradually, the ability to control muscle movement is lost. This leads to paralysis and eventually death since as of today, there is still no cure for this disease.
As a great deal of you are already aware, the latest internet phenomenon, the “ice bucket challenge” has taken the world by storm over the past few weeks. For those of you out there who are less familiar with the challenge, it is essentially a creative tactic to raise awareness and funds for the ALS Association by way of nominating three people to pour a bucket of ice water over their heads. Nominees have 24 hours to complete the challenge and if they fail to do so, they are supposed to donate 100 dollars to the ALS Association. Those who successfully complete the task and document it can pass the baton by nominating three other people, and are still encouraged to make a contribution of some sort to the cause.
At first, I was a little wary of the challenge because I saw it as a fad of sorts that people would forget about in no time. I also made the assumption that some people completing the challenge, teenagers in particular, were completing it as something to do and post on social media rather than taking the opportunity to learn about ALS and help the cause by donating. Today, my perspective was shifted as I watched a YouTube video of a seemingly normal man in his mid-twenties completing the challenge. It was later revealed that this man was an ALS patient whose mother was also suffering with the disease and whose grandmother had lost her life to it, as well. He spoke of how for once in his life, he got to experience a time when ALS was brought to the forefront and where people were actually aware of it rather than simply attributing it to Lou Gehrig and calling it a day. The way he saw it, this challenge began an open, albeit difficult dialogue across the world and the lighthearted nature of the challenge along with the massive outpouring of public support lifted the spirits of ALS patients everywhere.
I urge all of you, whether or not you choose to participate, to read up a bit more on ALS and as always, be armed with the facts. I am a firm believer that the most effective way to raise awareness is to attain and share knowledge so that the rest of the world may also be enlightened about the disease and find out how they can help. You can also visit www.CatholicHealthServices.org to learn about our home health services, hospice care and other service lines that can be utilized to help loved ones who have to live with this debilitating disease.
With that said, I nominate YOU! Do some research, dump a bucket of cold water over your head, make a contribution or just do whatever you can to make yourself and the people around you more aware.