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Bridge to Hope helps fight ALS May 16

Several families in the Northland will wake up today and face a disease that is all about loss. Those that have it lose the ability to walk, drive a car and get to work. Ultimately, they lose the ability to eat and to breath. In the few short yea...

Several families in the Northland will wake up today and face a disease that is all about loss.

Those that have it lose the ability to walk, drive a car and get to work. Ultimately, they lose the ability to eat and to breath. In the few short years the disease takes over their lives, they lose their independence, and then lose their lives.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a disease that attacks the nervous system, weakening muscles so they become useless, and the afflicted become paralyzed. Death from complications typically occurs three to five years after diagnosis.

Yet despite the debilitating nature of this illness, there is hope to find a cure and prevent future generations from the disease that took the life of baseball great Lou Gehrig in 1941.

To raise money for research to fight the disease and help those affected with it in the Northland, the Muscular Dystrophy Association is sponsoring Bridge to Hope, a fund-raising five-mile event across the Richard I. Bong Bridge on Sunday, May 16. Walkers, runners and wheel chair participants will complete a course that starts and finishes on the Superior side of the bridge. They will collect pledges and pay an entrance fee to raise money to help in the fight against ALS.

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"We offer both help and hope," said Michelle Mike, executive director of the MDA in Duluth. The MDA leads the nation in conducting research on neuromuscular diseases, of which ALS is one.

It is a disease that can affect anyone.

"ALS does not discriminate," Mike said. "Typically it occurs in people age 30 to 60, but it can hit anyone at anytime. No one can predict when it will strike."

When it does, a person will likely have trouble moving a limb. ALS has similar symptoms to MS, and it can take up to six months to diagnose. As it progresses, a patient will begin to lose mobility. Paralysis sets in. Death usually occurs from respiratory complications.

To help those suffering from ALS and their families, the MDA coordinates services through the neurology clinic at SMDC, runs support groups at the Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center, sponsors youth camps each summer, assists patients with adaptive medical equipment and holds an annual telethon to raise funds every Labor Day.

About 400 families in 30 counties in northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin get support and services through the MDA. The Bridge to Hope will raise awareness and funds for the ALS division of the MDA.

"This is a devastating disease, and we are seeing more and more local cases," Mike said. "The more people are informed and educated, the more we can do to fight it."

For more information on ALS and services available in the Northland, contact the MDA at 218-727-3466.

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News to Use

Bridge to Hope raises funds to fight ALS

Sunday, May 16, 5-mile run, walk, roll across the Bong Bridge

More information, phone 727-3466

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