Josh Rogers: Why I Walk to Defeat ALS

By Josh Rogers, Senior Vice President & Partner, FleishmanHillard

A few weekends ago, I was jogging past Steinberg Rink in Forest Park and I remembered the first Walk to Defeat ALS® that I attended. The Walk started and finished at Steinberg. That was 2005 or 2006, I think.  I participated in two Walks at Steinberg. Then the event shifted to the Forest Park Visitor’s Center. And this year, we’re moving again to the upper Muny parking lot.

Each location to date has served us very well as the event has grown. And I know our new spot will be great too. Forest Park is such a wonderful institution … it’s impossible to go wrong with an event in the park.

As I ran by Steinberg, I thought about how much has changed since my first Walk. Sadly, my friend Craig Thomas, the reason I walked in the first place, lost his battle with ALS and is no longer with us. As is the case with countless others, unfortunately.

Craig.larger
I walk for my friend, Craig Thomas, who lost his battle with ALS in 2012 at age 34.

There’s been a lot of good change too, though. We’ve had the Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised millions for the ALS Association. Those funds have resulted in advances in advocacy, patient care and research, including the introduction of Radicava as a treatment for ALS patients. And there are three other drugs in advanced stages of development as a direct result of the Ice Bucket Challenge, holding promise for those with the disease and those who will be diagnosed in the future.

But just as there’s been change, a lot has remained the same. ALS is still fatal. Every 90 minutes, someone loses their ALS fight, and someone new is diagnosed with the disease. For these reasons, it is important that we continue to walk … to fundraise, to advocate and to keep up the fight.

That’s why I’ll be back this year … and every year hereafter until we find a cure. Whether at the Muny or somewhere new. As long as I’m able, I will walk. I hope you will too.

The St. Louis Walk to Defeat ALS® will be held on Saturday, June 23rd, at Forest Park.  Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the Walk starts at 10:00 a.m.  Sign up or donate today and help support people with ALS and their families while we search for a cure.


Josh Rogers currently serves as the Vice Chairman to the Board of Directors for The ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter, and will take the helm as Chairman of the Board February 1, 2019.  Josh has been a dedicated volunteer for six years, in both an advisory capacity providing strategic support and planning for our organization as well as serving on numerous local and national ALS board and event committees.

 

After 25 years I’m Still Fighting Against ALS

By Maureen Barber Hill, President/CEO of The ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter

Although I think of my dad often, Father’s Day always brings with it a special pang of sadness.  It’s been 25 years now that I have not been able to spend Father’s Day with him  —  he lost his battle to ALS in September of 1992.  As the years pass I think I will always feel like a part of me will always ache – like I’m missing something, but more so someone, especially around those pivotal moments of my life and my children’s lives.  My kids never got the opportunity to know what a great man he was.  My daughter Meghan was only four years old and my son Michael was just seven days old when ALS took their grandfather from them.

 

Dad-e
Dad with my daughter Meghan

 

Over the past 25 years he has been missed tremendously, but I think he would be proud of the fact that my family continues to carry on his legacy, fighting against the disease that took his life, working to increase awareness and raise funds for ALS care and research.  My mom, rest her soul, made sure of that!  She and Dad really enjoyed playing golf and so our family started “The Wayne Barber Memorial Golf Tournament” as a tribute to my father and so that we could give back to the ALS Association.   This event was our revenge on ALS!  We knew firsthand  that this disease was a relentless monster and we wanted to do what we could to help and support others going through an ALS journey and help find a cure.

Family photo -e
The Wayne Barber Family

My family organized and ran the tournament for ten years, but eventually we came to the conclusion that the event needed to grow – so that it not only memorialized Dad, but celebrated the lives of other people with ALS and their families.   In 2005, we handed the event over to The ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter, who adopted it as one of their primary fundraisers, renaming it The ALS Association Annual Memorial Golf Tournament.

Twenty three years later the fight against this disease continues, but with a growing sense of hope.  Just last year, the first new treatment for ALS in two decades, Radicava, was approved by the FDA, and five new genes responsible for contributing to the disease have been identified since 2014.  Because of these advances, the decision was made to rename the golf tournament, “Swing for a Cure” to emphasize our organization’s commitment to ending this disease once and for all. My family remains very involved in this event  — held every August  – which has raised over $1.5 million dollars since its inception.

So with another Father’s Day approaching I ask myself the same questions I have asked for 25 years.  How do I honor my dad?  The answer may change as I grow older, but one thing I know for certain is that I, along with my three brothers, their wives, our children and great family and friends, will continue our commitment to fight ALS until there is a cure.  Until then, you will find me — and my family — at the Swing for a Cure Golf tournament, where I know we all feel closest to my dad and where we can celebrate his legacy.

Ladies foursome2

I will be on the course swinging my club for a cure because I know firsthand that watching someone you love fight a terminal disease is one of the hardest things you can go through in life.  It saddens me to know that hundreds in our region will receive an ALS diagnosis this year, and that their loved ones will face the heartbreaking task of saying goodbye all too soon. My dad was a hero in my eyes – he fought ALS with incredible strength and courage.  And my mom was certainly a hero as well — as his primary caregiver she often neglected her own needs to ensure that Dad was well cared for.

Despite knowing that there was no cure for ALS, I was still not prepared to lose my dad at the age of 35. As I grow older no matter whose love gives me happiness I will always by my daddy’s little girl.  I miss you so much Dad.

Swing for a Cure, The ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter’s annual golf tournament, will be held on Monday, August 20th, at Sunset Country Club in Sunset Hills, Missouri.  For more information or to register your foursome, click this link.

Techniques to Reduce Muscle Spasms

Our guest blogger this week is Christie Seidl, a massage therapy student from The Body Therapy Center and School of Massage in Swansea, Illinois.  Christie will obtain her MBLEx certification this August, and currently has her ASCP MLT certification and an associates degree in laboratory science.

For people with ALS, muscle spasms are a common and sometimes painful occurrence. Spasms and cramps are characterized by a sudden, involuntary contraction of muscles, and are the result of the ongoing disruption of signals from the nerves to the muscles that occurs in ALS.   There are four simple techniques you can use to help alleviate the pain and help stop the spasm.

The first method to try is compression. The easiest way to do this is to use one or two hands to compress and hold pressure to the active spasm. You can do this yourself or a caregiver can do this for you. Another way is to use compression bandages or sleeves during the active spasm.

A second method is light stretching. Gently stretch the muscle but do not over stretch or vigorously stretch the muscle. This can make the spasm worse.

The third method to try is the use of hot and cold contrast treatment. This contrast is achieved by using either hot and cold compresses or hot and cold baths. A cold compress for example is an ice pack and a hot compress is a microwaveable rice pack. An example of a cold bath is cold water with ice and a warm bath would be with hot water but do not burn yourself. When using a bath you want to be able to submerge the entire muscle. This method always starts and end using the cold method of choice. Start by leaving the cold pack on for 10 mins and then switch to the hot pack or water for 10 mins. Then rotate cold and hot method three times and end with one more cold application.

The last but most effective option is a little more difficult. This fourth method is called reciprocal inhibition. “When an agonist contracts, in order to cause the desired motion, it usually forces the antagonists to relax. This phenomenon is called reciprocal inhibition because the antagonists are inhibited from contracting.”(Appleton, 1996) This is accomplished by activating the antagonist muscle.  An antagonist muscle is a muscle that does the opposite job or function of the muscle that is having the spasm. For example: if you have a spasm in your biceps, the antagonist would be the triceps.  If you have a spasm in the calf (gastroc or soleus) the antagonist would be the front of your leg (tibialis anterior) or hamstrings and quads.

Now, the way to activate the antagonist is to put pressure or resistance up against that muscle and press against it. For example: if you have a muscle spasm in you calf, put pressure or resistance against your shin and use the muscles in your leg to press against it. I do this by using my hand against my shin or the front of my leg against a wall with my knee bent and try to straighten my leg.

 

 

The reason this last method works is because the antagonist and the muscle with the spasm cannot work at the same time. Therefore; when you make that opposite muscle work the spasm must relax.

Muscle spasms are not a comfortable thing to live with but there are ways to help shorten the length of the spasm and help alleviate the pain. Always consult a physician if the spasms become worse or more frequent.  I hope these techniques help and know that you are not alone.

References
Appleton, B. (1996, January 09). STRETCHING AND FLEXIBILITY Everything you never wanted to know. Retrieved May 30, 2018, from http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_1.html#SEC


*A recent study led by Dr. Bjorn Oskarsson from the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville and supported by The ALS Association demonstrated that mexiletine, a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, reduced the frequency and severity of muscle cramps. Ask your healthcare provider for more information.

The Rudin Family Keeps on Truckin’ at the Walk to Defeat ALS®

When you attend a Walk to Defeat ALS®, you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of people who have been touched by this disease, each with their own story of how ALS has impacted their lives. Some are still fighting, and complete the route in their wheelchairs, next to an army of supporters cheering them on.  Some have lost someone special to the disease, but are committed to continuing the fight in memory of their friend or loved one.  All are warriors in the fight to defeat ALS.

Chatham, Illinois resident Ben Rudin was just 40 years old and the father of two young sons when he was diagnosed with ALS. He and his wife, Rebecca, participated in the Springfield Walk to Defeat ALS®, forming a team of family and friends to walk in support of a cure and to fund care for people living with the disease. An avid music lover and fan of the musical group, the Drive By Truckers, the family named their team, Truckin’ with Ben. 

Ben lost his battle with ALS in 2014, but Team Truckin’ with Ben still celebrates his memory through the Walk to Defeat ALS® in Springfield. Rebecca recently shared her story about why the Walk is so special for their family and why this year will be bittersweet for them.

12241402_10205195165628067_5684492383505025354_n

 

“After experiencing some wrist and hand weakness during the summer of 2011, Ben decided to go to the doctor with what he thought was carpal tunnel syndrome.  At the initial visit the doctor couldn’t decide whether or not to send him to an orthopedic specialist or a neurologist.  After spending about 10 minutes with the orthopedic doctor, she sent him to the neurologist who spent a lot of time looking at his nerves and muscles.  Ben spent the next six weeks having tests, including EMG’s and MRI’s, and on October 24, 2011 was given the diagnoses of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Because there is no single test for this disease we were told to be guarded with this information until additional tests could be conducted to confirm the diagnoses.  That was a very trying and hard 6 months.  Our two young boys Elijah and Liam knew that there was something going on, but until we got the confirmation we didn’t put a name to it.  Rather, we decided to start doing bucket list activities as a family.

Rudin Family

The Rudin Family has been participating in the ALS walk since 2012.  During the Springfield walk that year, Ben, the boys and I were in Hawaii making lifelong memories.  Our extended family and friends walked for us.  When we returned we decided that we would walk at the St. Louis walk.  Ben was one of the ribbon cutters – another memory that will never be forgotten.  That year he was able to walk the entire route of the walk.  At the ALS walk in 2013, we walked in the rain at Washington Park.  Family members took turns pushing Ben in a wheelchair because he quickly became fatigued when walking.   In 2014 Ben was in his power wheel chair and was determined to do a lap all on his own.  The Truckin’ with Ben team had over 300 registered members that day.  Following the walk everyone celebrated Ben with a banquet that friends planned.  It was an amazing day and lots of pictures were taken.  Ben passed away four days later.  The strength he showed us on that day will never be forgotten.

2013 Walk

This year the Walk has a bit of extra special meaning.  The walk is on Father’s day weekend and this is our fifth father’s day without Ben.  It’s always a bittersweet day as the boys and I reminisce about all the things we used to do with dad.  We typically go out to his memorial at Southwind Park and then grill out his favorite meal of hamburgers.  This year also marks Elijah’s (our oldest) 18th birthday and high school graduation.  He is following in his dad’s footsteps and attending Illinois State University to study actuarial science.  Ben worked for insurance companies and instilled the love of math in his boys.

Mom and boys2

It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but the ALS walks have helped us remember and celebrate a life well lived.  We miss Ben terribly and know that he watches over us every day.”


Join the fight against ALS – sign up today for the Springfield Walk to Defeat ALS®, Saturday, June 16 at Southwind Park, or the St. Louis Walk to Defeat ALS®, Saturday, June 23 in Forest Park.  Support people with ALS and their families and help us find treatments and a cure – we need you!

Nine Questions with Dr. Ghazala Hayat

Dr. Ghazala Hayat is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Electrodiagnostic Medicine and has clinical neurophysiology certification by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.  She is the director of Neuromuscular Services, Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship and Clinical Neurophysiology Laboratory and the ALS Certified Center of Excellence at Saint Louis University.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I graduated from King Edward Medical College in Pakistan. I did my neurology residency and Neuromuscular Disorders Fellowship at Medical College of Virginia. I have been at St. Louis University since 1986. I am Professor of Neurology, Director Neuromuscular Services, Clinical Neurophysiology Services; Director Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship and Director of ALS Certified Center Of Excellence.

I was recently appointed as Director of CQI for education and research.

Why did you decide to become a neurologist?

I have loved math and physics since high school. Neurology “makes sense to me” as there are tracts, pathways which will correctly predict where the lesion is. Over years many breakthrough discoveries are making Neurology even more interesting.
How long have you been treating people with ALS?

I was involved in ALS care/therapy since my fellowship in Neuromuscular Disorders at Medical College of Virginia. I continued taking care of ALS patients at the neuromuscular clinic since 1886. About 22 years ago the ALS Certified Center of Excellence was established.

How is ALS diagnosed?

The diagnosis of ALS is clinical with laboratory tests ruling out other causes. Patients usually present with progressive weakness of arms, legs, difficulty speaking, swallowing, breathing and walking. The examination shows weakness of muscles, loss of muscle mass, tightness of muscles, hyperactive reflexes, muscle twitches, speech difficulties and gait imbalance. Not every patient will have the same symptoms and may develop some of these symptoms over time. Blood tests are performed to rule out any ALS “mimickers” or other causes of weakness. Imaging of the spine and brain is done to look for any compression, stroke or other causes for weakness. Nerve conduction studies and electromyography can help to confirm the diagnosis if there are wide spread changes in the body.
CarmenandDr.Hayat

How is the ALS clinic at Saint Louis University different from a typical clinic?

The ALS clinic is a multidisciplinary clinic. When the patient is seen at the ALS clinic, he/she is evaluated by a neuromuscular specialist, resident/fellow, ALS nurse coordinator, ALSA representative, Physical therapist, Occupational therapist, Respiratory therapist, Speech therapist, Dietician, and Social worker. If needed, we have personnel to provide different equipment evaluation. We have core group of gastroenterologists, pulmonologist, psychiatrists and psychologists for further evaluation and therapy. At the end of the clinic we have round table discussion about each patient and the decisions about different disciplines are made with consultation. This coordinated care provides the best possible treatment to the ALS patients.

Patients can contact the ALS nurse and the physician in between visits for any issues.

What do you love about working at SLU?

Commitment to patient care, education and clinical research.

What are some of the exciting developments in research in ALS?

Stem cell, gene therapies, learning more about different genes.

What are the most common misconceptions about ALS?

“There is a cure available in many parts of the world.”  Sadly I have seen patients and families spending their life savings on these therapies, which have not proven to be helpful at all.

“Feeding tubes are not helpful.” Feeding tubes improve quality of life and patients can conserve “energy” for other important functions.

“Once the diagnosis is made, go home and take care of your business.” We can offer many services to the patient and many studies have shown quality of life and may be length of survival to be better for the patients followed in multidisciplinary clinics.

What would you tell someone who has just been diagnosed with ALS?
  1. We do not have the cure for ALS but we have therapies. Now we have 2 FDA approved medications.
  2. Follow in a multidisciplinary clinic to get the best possible care.
  3. We will be with them at every step to help and guide.
  4. Take your time, but discuss with your loved ones to decide about feeding tube and respirator.
  5. Have an advanced directive.
  6. Read about research studies and see if he/she is interested in any.
  7. Take one day at a time.
  8. Progression of weakness will be challenging but we will be able to help with assistance from different disciplines.
What is the most rewarding thing about working with people who have ALS?

I am amazed by the courage of the ALS patients, their caregiver. How they adapt to changes, have smiles on their faces with all the challenges and are willing to try new treatment for research studies, even if they will not see the benefit.


For more information on multidisciplinary care for ALS and the ALS Certified Center of Excellence at Saint Louis University, visit our website.

 

May is ALS Awareness Month

May is ALS Awareness Month, an opportunity to focus the public spotlight on ALS and gather support for people currently fighting the disease, as well as the search for treatments and a cure. Many people don’t fully understand the impact an ALS diagnosis has on a family, so May is the perfect time to get people talking about what ALS is and what’s necessary to end it once and for all.  Here are a few ways you can raise awareness in your community:

1.  Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and help educate readers about ALS and the critical need for support.

2.  Advocate for people with ALS. Contact your legislator and ask for their support on issues which impact people with ALS: caregiving, tax credits, research funds, long-term care, and so on. Sign up to become an ALS advocate and make your voice heard!

3.  Post some facts about ALS on your social media accounts. Ask your friends to share it! Update your Facebook profile with the ALS Awareness frame and recruit your friends to like our Facebook page and follow this blog!

4.  Tell a friend. Tell a neighbor. Tell a co-worker. Start a conversation about ALS and help people understand the impact of an ALS diagnosis.  Share your story.

5.  Support research and access to high-quality care by donating to the fight – either with a one-time donation or recurring gift, or by including The ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter in your planned giving decisions.

To help you spread the word and raise awareness about ALS, visit our website where you’ll find lots of information on this disease, as well as different ways in which you can support care, fund cutting-edge research and advocate for ALS-related issues.

Thank you for lending your voice to the fight against ALS this month to help bring awareness and understanding of this devastating disease!

Don and Claire Bratcher: Imagining a World without ALS

ALS Association volunteers are a special breed of superhero — they are the heart and soul of this Chapter. They give up countless hours of their personal time to provide us with all manner of help – in the office, in the homes of people living with ALS, on our board of directors, as public policy advocates, on our committees, at our special events – without asking for anything in return.  

So many of our volunteers have been personally impacted by ALS, and have seen up close and personal the devastation the disease brings upon a family.  These wonderful people become volunteers to fight for a cure and to ensure that other families are supported physically and emotionally on their disease journey.

Two of those special volunteers are Don and Claire Bratcher, who have been ALS warriors and volunteers for close to 15 years.  Claire recently agreed to share their story and we’re delighted to post it here in her own words. 


And so my story begins. In 1990, at age 80, my dad, Larry Boberschmidt, Sr., was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy and died at age 82. In 1994, at age 55, my sister, Marie Serena was diagnosed with ALS and died at age 57. In 2002, at age 55 my sister, Eleanor Ecuyer, also heard the words, “You have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)” – aka Lou Gehrig’s disease – and died at age 57.  I then realized my dad probably was misdiagnosed and also had ALS.

The most common form of ALS in the United States is “sporadic” ALS, which means that the disease can affect anyone, anywhere. Our family falls in to the other ten percent of cases – the inherited form of the disease, called “familial” ALS.  Families members who fall into this category have a fifty percent chance that they will inherit the gene mutation and may develop the disease.

 

Familoy members
Family members we celebrate.

Lou Gehrig’s wife name was Eleanor. On July 4, 1939 at the young age of 36, Lou Gehrig announced to the crowd in attendance at Yankee Stadium who came to watch him play, that instead he was retiring from the game he loved because he had been diagnosed with ALS. My sister Eleanor died on July 4th. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Eleanor was probably the most independent person I have ever known, but when you live with ALS, this horrific disease robs you of all of your independence which was, for Eleanor, the most difficult thing about having ALS. She didn’t want to have to depend on everyone for everything. I believe by her death occurring on July 4th, it was a way she showed that she was regaining her independence.  Despite all of that, she considered this disease a gift, as it brought people together in prayer who ordinarily would not even speak to each other.

Memory Wall
Our grandson, Shane Hill, looking at our family’s photos on the memory wall at the Walk to Defeat ALS.

In 2003, I decided that I needed to do something more. I knew that I couldn’t waste any more time with negative feelings about what ALS had done to our family, but decided instead to channel those feelings into positive actions. I reached out to the St. Louis Regional Chapter and asked what I could do to help. That is when the Eleanor’s Hope team was formed and we became a part of the Walk to Defeat ALS. I still felt I needed to do more, so I became a part of the St. Louis Regional Chapter’s Walk committee. I didn’t know it at the time, but not only was I becoming a member of this committee, I was joining a fabulous group of people that I now consider my ALS family.

Eleanor's hope 1
The Eleanor’s Hope Team

The Eleanor’s Hope team continues to walk for those who can’t and will continue to be part of the Walk to Defeat ALS as long as it takes. As the song goes, “I Can Only Imagine.” I would add to that and say that my prayer is “I can only imagine a world without ALS.” I believe we are very close to realizing that dream.

Claire and Don Bratcher
Eleanor’s Hope Team Captain

If you would like to become a volunteer and join a team of warriors dedicated to fighting ALS, please visit our website to learn more about available opportunities.  

And, join us at the Springfield Walk to Defeat ALS June 16th at Southwind Park, and at the St. Louis Walk to Defeat ALS on June 23rd at Forest Park.