On Borrowed Time: ALS Patient Stories

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrigs Disease, affects the motor neurons, the cells that initiate and control movement of muscles.

Listen to Emory patients talk about being diagnosed with ALS and how they are coping with this devastating disease.

Patient Stories

Wallis DeWitt was a CDC man for 41 years before his retirement, but no amount of work in the research field prepared him for ALS. "It is scary, and I know it's deadly," DeWitt says. But he feels supported by a strong Christian faith, his wife Jeanette, and his three grown sons—all firemen in Atlanta.

Jimmy Everett, 55, is a high school assistant principal, coach, and self-described as "one of the best athletes in Tallahassee." He always liked to swim, run, play baseball and football, you name it, until he began to notice he couldn’t keep up like he used to. After seeing a doctor, he heard, "We think you've got Lou Gehrig's." It was a shock to him and his new bride.

Nettie Greene was used to holding down two jobs. "I never was one to sit and not do," she says. Then she was diagnosed with ALS. These days, using a walker to walk and a machine that helps her breathe at night, she finds herself relying on her family to help her "do."

When Shirley Morrell needs to come to Emory's ALS Clinic in Atlanta, her brothers drive a round trip from New Orleans to pick her up in Eufala, Alabama, where she works as a medical assistant. The family is close. Her mother says, "We stick together."

Veteran Roy Newson served two years in Vietnam and remembers, "That was a war. We were fighting for something we knew we couldn't win." Today Newson is in another fight for his life with ALS. Helping him out is his wife of 31 years, Kathy.

Judy Lochridge, a nurse for 14 years, suddenly noticed that her arms weren't working like they used to. Her arms had become so weak that she began to have trouble putting in IVs or giving shots. Then one day, she had a fall, hit her face, and broke her nose. After a series of tests, Lochridge was diagnosed with ALS.

About ALS

Commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease for the popular New York Yankees baseball player who died of it in 1941, ALS is a devastating disease that kills the motor neuron cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing the brain to lose ability to control muscles in the body. It inevitably leads to paralysis and problems with swallowing, eating, and breathing. The persons mental capacity remains intact, making the disease a cruel sentence for patients who are often otherwise healthy and active before being diagnosed.