One man's battle with Lou Gehrig's disease

August 31, 2006

Reported by Britney Glaser

Close to 6,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, each year.  But, this disease is still only partially understood.  Close to 95% of all ALS cases are sporadic, and the causes of the disease are still unknown. Christopher Lopez, a Welsh resident, had no idea what the disease was until a specialist told him that he was carrying it.

Lopez's wife, Crystal, said, "You think about growing old with your spouse, but when you find out that maybe they have 5 years, it just puts a stop to everything."  Crystal and Christopher Lopez have been together for 11 years, but last April, 31-year-old Christopher was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.

"We had never heard of Lou Gehrig's disease, we didn't know anything about it," said Crystal.  The motor neuron disease causes muscle weakness, which eventually progresses to paralysis. Often, patients require ventilation because of a loss in respiratory function. The average life expectancy after diagnosis is about five years.

Although this disease has a strong effect on the body, a person's mind is untouched.  Christopher said it's still hard for him to believe that he is diagnosed with this disease.  Crystal said, "To me, it's like you're almost trapped in a body where your mind's working and you want to do this, but you know you can't."

At least for now, Christopher has something to be excited about.  Crystal is four months pregnant with their second child.  Christopher said, "I'm happy. I just hope it's a boy...but, if I get another girl, it will be alright."

Christopher is just one of 30,000 people living with this cureless disease.  But with advances in technology, researchers are moving closer to unlocking the mystery of this disease.

"I just take it one day at a time," said Christopher.

There are a number of ALS support groups throughout the state providing resources to families affected by this disease.  For more information, visit: www.alsalouisiana.org.