Lou Gehrig was the New York Yankee known as the iron horse of baseball. In 1939 he also put a face and a name to the devastating neurological disease ALS, now often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS strikes down people in the prime of their lives, with no warning and within a few years it will take their lives. Nancy Naeve Brown has more on Redfield man who is grateful for Avera's Neuroscience Institute's Monthly ALS clinics.
Harley Hansen from Redfield was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS in July of 2010, but he said the symptoms started 4 or 5 years prior to that. The first sign for him was slurred speech at the end of his work day. It's gotten worse though in the last year and a half. It mostly affects his upper half.
Harley says, "My main difficulty with ALS that I have is breathing. I have no stamina what so ever. If I walk 20 yards I'm out of breath. The other problem is the muscles in the back of my neck. I cannot hold my neck up. It's exhausting to try and hold my neck up."
ALS is a neurodegenerative condition that affects the motor neurons within the brain and spinal cord.
Neurologist Dr. Karen Garnaas says, "What happens is it causes those motor neurons to die and as they die the skeletal muscles they supply become sick, atrophied and weakened."
Dr. Karen Garnaas is the Medical Director of the Avera Neuroscience Institute's ALS Clinic. She was instrumental in putting together this first-of-it's-kind clinic in the state.
Dr. Garnaas says, "The whole idea behind it is to bring all the specialists together in one place so we can treat see these people so they can live optimally with their disease."
Since Harley and his family travel 3 hours to get to Sioux Falls, they appreciate the convenience of being able to see a number of specialists on the same day while at clinic and that includes working with physical therapist Kristi Hupp at Avera McKennan.
Harley says, "They address any concerns that I have with my walking, with my breathing or arm muscles. They address them and help me as much as they can. They can't fix them, but they help me work around them. I have a lot of gratitude toward Dr. Garnaas and Dr. Viola at the neuro institute at Avera for diagnosing me and the help they've given me. Every where I've been at Avera, it's been nothing but a pleasant experience."
When you have ALS you need all the support you can get, emotionally, physically, medically and you'll always find it here at Avera.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association and ALS Association are also part of Avera's ALS Clinic. They provide support to families in a number of different ways from finding the right equipment to helping pay for it to offering support groups.
For more information go to: http://www.southdakotadoc.com/clinics/neuro/services/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-clinic.aspx