Life goes on. Tuesday is similar to Monday. We know what to expect. And that knowledge brings us security. And then one day, life falls apart. He becomes a stroke victim, lying on a hospital bed. Nothing is the same. Even his body has changed. What he could do easily in his past life now may be impossible. He is trapped in a nightmare and can’t seem to wake up. He needs explanations, he needs reassurance and he needs simple basic needs fulfilled, needs he cannot do on his own. Now, when he needs so much, he is unable to express himself. He tries to tell the nurse that he is thirsty but she doesn’t understand his garbled sounds. His loved ones try so hard but they, too, are unable to communicate. His daughter cries in frustration. She wants so much to help. She tries several possibilities but he continues to ask in his unintelligible speech, becoming more and more upset that he is unable to convey his thoughts and needs with those around him. More than 62% of stroke patients suffer through this demeaning and discouraging challenge. The stress, the anguish greatly hinder the healing process. But he remains at an impasse, unable to move forward. Continue reading Giving a Voice to Those who Cannot Speak
We tend to take our abilities for granted. Scratching a mosquito bite, calling out to a friend across the street, running for a bus, licking an ice cream cone…these are all simple daily activities until one finds he no longer is capable of performing these previously effortless actions.
Muscular movement is controlled by the neurological system. Motor neurons ‘tell the muscles what to do’. But if they don’t? That is when we begin to realize just how complex our bodies are. A person finds he can no longer perform actions that have been part of his life since infancy.
This is what happens in ALS. The motor neurons are gradually lost and the muscles they control become weak and then non-functional. ALS stands for amyotrophic (without nourishment to muscles) lateral (affecting the side of the spinal cord) sclerosis (the hardened nature of the spinal cord). Its onset is gradual and, at first, the symptoms are merely annoying: dropping things, tripping, perhaps slurred speech. Slowly, other muscles become involved including those that help us breathe. Up until five years ago, life expectancy was short with death often due to respiratory failure and lack of ability to ingest nutrition but due to recent technological advances in prolonging life, some ALS patients can now live for decades.
The question then arises regarding the quality of life of these patients. A typical end stage Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis patient is not mobile at all. He lies in his bed or recliner, unable to lift his arm to reach for a tissue, unable to swallow food, unable to ask for a drink. He is completely dependent on his caretaker for every need. Continue reading When ALS Robs Its Victim of Every Skill He Had