I Look Forward to Taking This Journey With You

As she moves into her new role as our president and CEO, Katie McGovern wanted to share some personal thoughts with all of you in our ALS community:

Well, here it is. The first week on the job!

To say this week, and the weeks leading up to this, have come with a mix of emotions is an understatement. While there is great excitement and energy for what is to come, there certainly isn’t a lack of nerves. I have big shoes to fill upon Maureen Barber Hill’s retirement, and there are significant goals to achieve.

While this transition has personal elements, I am acutely aware that this opportunity really isn’t about me. We, the ALS community, are at a pivotal point in our journey, embarking on our next chapter together. Throughout this chapter, I believe we will see many things unfold, resulting in transformative progress for people affected by ALS and their families.

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Learning from Those Who Know—Latest ALS Focus Survey Needs to Hear from Current or Past Caregivers

Making assumptions can lead to trouble, but we all do it from time to time. You might assume that since the weather was nice yesterday it will be so again today, but if you don’t bother to find the weather forecast you may end up with some soggy clothes at the least. Annoying to be sure, but not really that big of a deal.

However, assumptions about the impact of a disease as serious as ALS can have far reaching implications. ALS researchers around the world work hard to challenge assumptions and find the facts behind the causes of ALS and how to best treat—and someday cure—the disease. But even in assessing the impact of ALS on day-to-day living, there is the danger of assuming.

The goal of the ALS Focus survey project is to move beyond those assumptions. It is a patient- and caregiver-led survey program that asks people with ALS and current and past caregivers about their needs and burdens. The goal is to learn as much as possible about individual experiences throughout the disease journey so that the whole ALS community can benefit.

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ALS and Respiratory Health—Asking Hard Questions, and Getting Important Answers

The range of emotions someone faces with an ALS diagnosis are as unique as every person is. But while no two people experience exactly the same range of feelings or thoughts, there are some common themes, among them a desire to understand what the future will hold.

For Ken Menkhaus, that meant turning his analytical mind to the task of better understanding ALS. A husband, father, professor of political science and member of The ALS Association national Board of Trustees, Ken was diagnosed with ALS in 2018.

Among the issues Ken wanted to understand better was the impact ALS has on breathing. With the hopes of sharing what he learned with others facing ALS, Ken allowed The ALS Association to bring cameras along on his fact-finding journey to understand more about the impact of ALS on his respiratory health and the kinds of decisions he and his family will face as the disease progresses.

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The COVID-19 Vaccine—What You Should Know

It is fair to say that there has been much enthusiasm about safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 being developed quickly and being distributed across the country. It is also fair to say that there has been more than a little confusion about how the vaccines are being distributed, and how and when they will be available to people from various communities, including for people with ALS.

In an effort to provide the most current and reliable information available, the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), in partnership with The ALS Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Muscular Dystrophy Association, will host a special webinar with leaders from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to discuss the COVID-19 vaccines with the rare disease community. The webinar is Friday, January 15, from 1 – 1:45 p.m. CT. The webinar is free, and you can register here: https://bit.ly/Vaccine-Webinar.

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Hope for the New Year

As we move into 2021 in earnest we once again asked our Board Chair Josh Rogers to share some thoughts on the year ahead. Here is Josh’s message to us all:

Happy new year!

With the full year ahead of us, most of us hold terrific hope that 2021 will be an improvement over 2020.

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What a Year It Has Been

There is no doubt, 2020 will be a year not soon forgotten. We all have had our lives turned upside down in ways big and small, and we are all hoping for 2021 to turn things right-side up.

And while 2020 has been for many a year we’d be fine forgetting, there has been much worth remembering for our Chapter and the ALS community. For while 2020 has been a struggle, we are inspired by those who have struggled to overcome the obstacles in the path. And we are reminded that for people with ALS the struggle never ends. ALS does not stop for global pandemics, or for the challenges created by them.

Like so many others, when the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, our Chapter was forced to reimagine how to provide services to the community we serve. Our Care Service team worked with our partners to find new and different ways to meet the needs of people with ALS. Visits that would normally have been in person now took place over the phone or internet. Here on ALS Connect, we tried to keep you informed about how we and others in our community we meeting these challenges each and every day.

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Staying Power—SLU Clinic Celebrates 15 Years as an ALS Certified Treatment Center of Excellence

Time has a way of sneaking by when we aren’t looking; not the day-to-day so much, but the sliding of the calendar from year-to-year. What seemed like just a few years ago suddenly is a decade more in the rearview mirror as we zoom on to what’s next.

Think back to 2005—not that long ago, right? You might think things were not that much different then; not that long ago. You might hop on YouTube to see what happened back then, but if you did that back then, you would have been cutting edge: YouTube wasn’t a thing until February of 2005. And hopefully you were a college student back in 2005 if you want to see what was happening on Facebook, since it didn’t open up to the general public until a few years later. And of course if you were doing any Googling for “what happen in…” back in 2005 you were likely doing it from your desktop, as the first iPhone didn’t come out until 2007.

But while the world is different now as opposed to 2005, some things aren’t. In 2005, the SLUCare ALS Clinic was recognized as an ALS Association Certified Treatment Center of Excellence, and remains so to this day. This certification means that a clinic meets rigorous clinical care and treatment standards, participates in ALS-related research and has successfully completed ongoing comprehensive site reviews. Nationwide, there are only 72 ALS Association Certified Treatment Centers of Excellence.

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Your Year-End Gift Has More Impact than You Might Think

December is here and the 2020 holiday season is in full swing! Sure, maybe a bit more of the holiday shopping is being done online, and what would normally be in-person gatherings are now Zoom meetings dotting the calendar. But even in these most unusual circumstances, this time of the year feeds feelings of generosity and fuels a desire to give. And although this holiday season may look different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, holiday giving remains more important than ever.

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Remembering Pat Quinn, and how “Everything can Change in an Instant”

Less than a week before Thanksgiving, Pat Quinn, co-founder of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, passed away from the disease. His passing follows that of the other Ice Bucket Challenge co-founder Pete Frates, who passed away in December 2019.

It might be tempting to think of Pat’s passing as just another example of how difficult 2020 has been, but when Pat spoke on the 5th Anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge in August 2019, his message was not one of dwelling on our setbacks, but one to embrace the possibilities life offers:

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Navigating Medicare Open Enrollment: What’s the right plan for you?

Medicare’s annual open enrollment period for health and drug coverage has begun and will continue through December 7, 2020. This time period allows those eligible to sign up, and those enrolled to change their selected Medicare health/prescription plan for the following year. It can be difficult to navigate, but the decisions you make during this period are critical, and you deserve to understand exactly what’s available.

As we approach the open enrollment deadline, we want to cover some Medicare basics, what this period means for people living with ALS, and resources available to select the right plan for you.

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