Tuesday, August 26, 2014

If only Lou Gehrig knew

Lou Gehrig bids farewell to Yankee fans in 1939
It seems everyone is dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads these days in the name of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or more simply ALS.  The origins of this challenge are debated, but it evolved into the ALS challenge earlier this summer when golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his cousin, Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has ALS, and was immediately picked up by the social media and television media in turn, and has quickly spread around the world with the mayor of Vilnius recently taking the challenge.

Instagrams make it easy for just about anyone to film and instantly download their ice cold bath, which has become a big hit among teenagers, sometimes with disastrous results.  Celebrities try to one-up each other in the name of charity, but the arty poses look more like self-promotionals.  Lost in all this is the serious nature of the disease, which was first called to the public eye when ALS ended Lou Gehrig's baseball career in 1939.  As a result, it was known as Lou Gehrig's Disease for many years.

Given its very low prevalence, it had pretty much gone under the radar, although it was first recorded in the late 19th century by French and British doctors.  It is a motor neuron disease which over time leaves its victims unable to move or speak, but with their mind fully intact.  Stephen Hawking has a motor neuron disease similar to ALS.

Stephen Hawking enjoying a lighter moment
Funny enough, marijuana not only provides much needed relief for ALS patients but if used in early stages of the disease can stave off the effects for a longer time.  Cathy Jordan helped popularize the use of medical marijuana for ALS patients and has far exceeded the 3-5 years she was given to live by her neurologist in 1985.  Lou Gehrig had died within two years of being diagnosed with the disease.

Maybe persons should be lighting up a joint for ALS instead of dumping ice cold water on their head.

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