Lou Gehrig's Disease
"ALS, or amyotrophic laterals sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. "A" means no. "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.
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 demise. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe. The motor nerves that are affected when you have ALS are the motor neurons that provide voluntary movements and muscle control. Examples of voluntary movements are making the effort to reach for a smart phone or step off a curb. These actions are controlled by the muscles in the arms and legs."
Maine ALS Support:
Contact Rita Melendy at 597-3030 for more information.
New England Chapter of ALSA- Northern New England CIO (serving Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine):
80 Colchester Avenue
Burlington, VT 05401
Phone: (802) 862-8882 or (888) 257-7733
Fax: (802) 862-2138
"An ALS group has been formed in Maine, thanks to the efforts of Joseph Mayo of Augusta, Clerk Emeritus of the Maine House of Representatives, where he served five terms as a representative, and another five terms as House Clerk. In 1999, he was diagnosed with ALS. Determined to work as long as possible, Joe initiated a campaign to educate others about people living with this disease, as well as working three days a week at the State House.
Tony Bok of Camden recently invited me to attend the Maine ALS group meeting at the State House in Augusta. Not knowing many details about this disease, I had prepared myself with a brief online attempt to understand what the disease was and how it affected those diagnosed with ALS. One thing I had been told early on: Maine needs to promote more ALS awareness and education for individuals -- and doctors.
Upon entering the room, the facilitator, and long-time friend of Joe Mayo, Rita Melendy, welcomed me and offered an invitation to sit in one of the seats that were arranged in a circle. Over the next 10 minutes, people would arrive; some people would have conversations, some would laugh, just like every other meeting, prior to convening.
Soon, Rita informed us that Joe would not be at the meeting; this would be the first time he was unable to attend. And Joe Mayo sent his affectionate regards to the group.
The opening round of introductions began in a serious tone with each person telling about themselves and when they, or their family member, were diagnosed with having ALS. The total number of people in the room was 20, and reported to be one of the largest groups to date. Approximately half of all people in the room were diagnosed with ALS. I would soon discover that these people also represented 50 percent of all people in Maine living with ALS.
Kandyce Powell of the Maine Hospice Council was the first guest speaker. She gave an overview of the hospice system in Maine. She indicated that there are 27 direct hospice units in Maine that provide end-of-life care. Additionally, there are volunteer efforts in hospice in many local communities for people who have no insurance and are unable to afford these services. Ultimately, ALS patients require a high level of care as the disease progresses. And like most people, the ALS patients will choose to remain in their homes as long as humanly possible; therefore the importance of planned hospice services to support an individual's need for quality of life.
The next speaker was Helen, a representative of Aventis Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey, makers of "Rilutek," the first-line therapy drug for slowing down progression of ALS. It was at this point in the meeting that the questions and interaction began to mount considerably. Many shared their experiences of taking Rilutek. Some told of horrendous side effects after taking the pill-form drug, while others had minor discomfort; some no symptoms at all. Several members of the group had not taken the drug and were being cautious about the hope that Rilutek may imply in lengthening one's life span or quality of life while living with ALS. The price tag is an expensive $989.00 per month; another issue of concern for some who may not have insurance coverage or their insurance company will not sufficiently cover costs.
The common thread of the present discussion was the pronounced hope for a cure to ALS. "Why don't the pharmaceutical companies, including Aventis, conduct more aggressive research into a cure for ALS?" one person asked. The answer is purely economic: the annual incidence of ALS is 20 people for every 1 million population. That translates into Maine having fewer than 30 people diagnosed with the disease annually. Nationwide, the number of cases is just over 5600. At any given time, across the United States, there are a total of 30,000 living with ALS. Plainly said, research is expensive when the market can't bear the costs because of low demand. Perhaps advocacy will encourage the federal government to legislate funding for increased ALS research? Courage, teamwork, and honesty are the most obvious words that come to mind as I listen to the stories of pain, setback, renewed hope, and never-ending determination. Passion was noticeably in the eyes of all, the fragility of life plain to see."
~Russell Anderson, Ability Maine (2002)
Understanding ALS: http://www.alsa.org/als/symptoms.cfm
Ride for Life: http://www.rideforlife.com
Ride for Life, Inc. is an not-for-profit corporation founded in 1998 by ALS patients, caregivers and those who care about people living with ALS.
The ALS Association: http://www.alsa.org/
The ALS Association is the only national not-for-profit voluntary health organization dedicated solely to the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (often called Lou Gehrig's disease). The ALS Association seeks to promote awareness and understanding of ALS and the work of The ALS Association by providing up-to-date information and education materials.
The ALS Association National Office
27001 Agoura Road, Suite 150
Calabasas Hills, CA 91301-5104
Information and Referral Service: 800-782-474
The National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. (NORD):
The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) is a unique federation of voluntary health organizations dedicated to helping people with rare "orphan" diseases and assisting the organizations that serve them. NORD is committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.
The National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.:
P.O. Box 8923, New Fairfield, CT 06812-8923
Phone: (203) 746-6518
Fax: (203) 746-6481
Toll-Free: (800) 999-6673
NORD Medicine Assistance Programs: http://www.rarediseases.org/programs/medication
Programs that help people who are unable to pay for orphan drugs.
More ALS Links http://www.wfnals.org/links/index.html Academic and research links from around the United States and the world.