SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Time To Declare War Against Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)
By Linda Kreider


November 02, 2007
Friday AM

This Veteran's Day, you will read about the heroes who fought for our country in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. You will hear about those who defended freedom during the Cold War and those who served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what you probably won't hear about is the war our veterans continue to wage right here at home: the war against ALS - the deadly disease that took the life of baseball legend Lou Gehrig and which is now striking veterans at nearly twice the rate as the general population.

As some of you may know (or not), I lost my father, Charles "Mel" Teal, to ALS on May 16, 2006 here in Ketchikan, Alaska. I attended the ALS Conference in Washington DC during the week that he passed away. I knew very little about ALS when my father was "diagnosed" in January 2006, and during the months before I attended that conference, I still knew very little. But I was bound and determined to find something to help my dad beat this devasting and destructive illness. After all, this was MY dad and he NEVER got sick and if he did, he got better. And, I just moved back "home" to Ketchikan after living in Fairbanks and Cordova to be closer to my parents during "their golden years" and I wasn't going to lose my dad to this disease!! I wasn't about to take "no cure" for an answer. There had to be something out there!! I learned a lot at the conference, and I didn't like what I was hearing, but that didn't stop me from learning more and took the time to ask for Senator Murkowski's and Senator Steven's support. They both supported and endorsed the establishment of the ALS Registry.

Two days into the conference, I got the call that all of us never want to get, my father was not doing well. It was with bitter irony that I was there in Washington DC trying to find something, or someone to help my dad that my dad passed away while I was attending a candlelight vigil for all ALS patients at the Lincoln Memorial. I still know very little about this disease after attending the conference!

I know we have several other families here in Ketchikan that have gone through and going through the coping of ALS. I only wish that everyone could attend one of these conferences to see and hear firsthand what ALS is! I cannot describe what our family went through and what my father went through. I encourage everyone to visit the ALS website. This disease strikes anyone, and our military is especially a "target". I have a son in the military and I don't want to lose him also!

Most of us, including our men and women in the military, have no idea that a disease made famous by a baseball player is as deadly to generals and privates as the bullets and bombs they faced in combat. Only ALS is more insidious, more horrific and more cruel.

ALS strikes silently, slowly eroding a person's ability to control muscle movement. At first, people notice subtle changes, like pain in their feet or slurred speech. But as the disease progresses, they lose the ability to move their arms, to walk and even stand. Many no longer are able to speak, eat or even wink an eye. They are completely paralyzed, yet their minds remain sharp. They are isolated and awake, alive with the knowledge that they are trapped inside their own bodies. Eventually they suffocate to death because their bodies have been robbed of the most basic human function ­ the ability to breathe.

On average, the victims of ALS die within two to five years after diagnosis. And as their bodies succumb to the disease, there is little they can do to slow the steady progression, for there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment.

Although Congress and the Administration repeatedly express support for our troops, they have not done enough to support our military men and women and our veterans in the war against ALS, despite the fact that studies conducted by researchers at the Veterans Administration and Harvard University have found that people who serve in the military, regardless of when or where they served, are approximately twice as likely to die from ALS. What cruel irony. People who have dedicated their lives to defending an entire country ­ our country ­ succumbing to a disease that prevents them from even lifting a finger in their own defense.

It's time we fight back. It's time Congress and the Administration support our heroes in the war against ALS by committing the resources needed to learn what causes the disease, how it can be treated and cured. This Veteran's Day, please remember the war our veterans are fighting against ALS and join their fight to end this disease. How many more have to die?

To learn how you can support our veterans, go to, and join The ALS Association in the war against Lou Gehrig's disease.

Linda Kreider
Ketchikan, AK

Received November 01, 2007 - Published November 02, 2007


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