Letter: Undeniable connection between ALS, military


As we turn our attention to focus on those veterans who have sacrificed to serve our country, I want to bring awareness to an alarming ALS statistic. Military veterans — regardless of the branch of service, regardless of the era in which they served and regardless of whether they served during a time of peace or a time of war — are twice as likely to be diagnosed with ALS than if they had not served in the military. Harvard University confirmed this finding in studies done in 2005 and 2009, funded by the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health.

ALS is your worst nightmare. Progressively, it attacks the motor neurons in your brain and spinal cord. When the motor neurons begin to waste away, it causes a loss of muscle control. Eventually, you’re trapped inside your own body unable to move, speak, eat and breathe.

My mother was diagnosed with ALS when she was taking chemotherapy for breast cancer. Because there is no effective treatment for ALS and the prognosis is terminal, her cancer treatment was terminated immediately, and she died a year later from ALS. The prognosis of two to five years of life for those with ALS hasn’t changed since Yankees great Lou Gehrig was diagnosed back in 1939. He died June 1941, at the age of 37.

Organizations like The ALS Association Central & Southern Ohio Chapter are working to help people in our community with ALS, including veterans, receive the best care and benefits available. In addition, The ALS Association is collaborating with the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Food & Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, scientists, healthcare professionals, other disease-focused nonprofit organizations and the ALS community to expedite the search for treatments.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ALS today, but together we are providing supportive services and care and you can help! To learn more about free services for those with ALS and to connect to the local chapter, go to ALSohio.org.

Marlin K. Seymour, Columbus

Seymour is executive director of the ALS Association Central & Southern Ohio Chapter.

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