Since Marty lived and died with ALS, I have come to learn so much more about this devastating disease. I am a physical therapist and yet when Marty was diagnosed, I knew NOTHING about ALS. The sad thing is that many health care providers don't know enough about ALS. At one point, Marty was applying for medicare coverage and going before a board of doctors at a local hospital. One of the doctors, hearing his slurred speech, despite knowing his diagnosis of ALS, asked him if he were drunk. Countless times, we had to tell health care providers what ALS was, how to manage his care, and what to expect (as best we knew it). More often than we can count, we had to inform people that ALS affected his body, not his mind. If knowledge is power, Marty's fight against ALS was an uphill battle.
It is ironic that Marty fought, as a U. S. Marine, for the health of his country, worked as a tree doctor for the health of the trees he so loved (sometimes using powerful chemicals), and then at the age of 52, those two things may have contributed to his losing his health and ultimately, at age 55, losing his life – the villain, ALS. He is not alone. Why? How? A state registry would allow researchers to track cause and effect and better be armed to search for a cure or way to control symptoms. Yet few states have instigated this and a national bill is being held up in the senate. ALS is an orphan diseases - little known and little revenue for research. Yet many of our veterans who have survived war time, now face the terror of being twice as likely to face a battle against ALS. In light of increased awareness of environmental issues, ALS should be in the forefront as a disease which truly seems to be the byproduct of environmental toxins. Awareness is key and YOU can help. ALS is a disease that takes young, healthy, vital people and strips their muscles away one by one until they are forced to either live out their days on a ventilator or die of respiratory failure. YOU can make a difference by the millions that you impact. Ted Koppel did that years ago with Morrie Schwartz. Advances have been made since then on “how” people live with ALS thanks to modern technology. Yet, hardly any advances have been made in a cure or public awareness of this horrible disease. As Marty's friend, I promised, I would help make sure to continue his fight against ALS. Please help us to honor those who have died and those who are living with ALS so their battle is not in vain.