In 2006, New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason made a defensive play in the team’s first home game since Hurricane Katrina that rallied the city and became a symbol of resilience. This week, he became an inspiration all over again with a candid column on SI.com that details his battle with the terminal disease ALS.
Gleason was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2011. The average person lives two to five years after being diagnosed. The disease prevents your brain from communicating with your muscles, and as a result the muscles eventually die. The cognitive process is not affected and the disease rarely affects the eyes, but patients with ALS can still hear, taste and touch. Gleason’s 4,500 word column, which took him about four hours to type with the help of technology that tracks his eye movements, is helping raise awareness for this relentless disease. “Someday soon we will all navigate computers with our eyes. When that day comes, remember you saw it here first. Keeping this perspective helps me think of myself less as disabled and more as a trendsetter,” writes Gleason.
A study published by the medical journal Neurology showed NFL players are more likely to develop ALS and Alzheimer’s disease. In the past 60 years 27 players have been diagnosed with ALS, and more than 27 people will die from ALS in the next two days.
Gleason has not let this disease stop him from pursuing life adventures and live it to the fullest. To learn more about Gleason and his effort to raise awareness for ALS visit www.teamgleason.org.
For another inspiring story of ALS patients fighting back, check out A battle to the End Against Lou Gehrig’s Disease.