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ALS Patient Challenges Doctor to The Ice Bucket Challenge

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Nurses pouring water on doctor
Everyone from President Obama to Jimmy Fallon has participated, and now it’s Dr. Bussey’s turn. Dr. Bussey, a family medicine physician at UnityPoint Clinic - Family Medicine - Grimes, was challenged by his patient, Keith Miner, to take the Ice Bucket Challenge this week. You may ask, what makes this Ice Bucket Challenge more special than the other tens of millions that have taken place? In 2011, at the age of twenty-eight years old, Keith was diagnosed with ALS. Sadly, the disease quickly began to take a toll on his daily life.

Keith, a married father of two with a baby due in November, has been working diligently for the past three years to raise awareness about ALS. Keith started the organization “Racers Against ALS” to help raise funds for Lou Gehrig’s Disease research. This past May, Keith traveled across the world to undergo an experimental stem cell treatment only offered in China to help give him more time to spend with his family. When asked about the Ice Bucket Challenge, Keith said:

“It’s been pretty unbelievable, before the challenge, most people had no idea what ALS was, but now everyone has heard of it. ALS research has been underfunded and this has raised over $90 million dollars, hopefully a treatment comes from all of this money raised.”

The Ice Bucket Challenge has had a massive impact on ALS awareness. Since late July, the ALS Association has raised a staggering $94.3 million. This is compared to just $2.6 million in the same period last year.

What is ALS?

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a rapidly progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for voluntary muscle control. More than 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year, and 30,000 Americans are living with the disease at any given time. At the onset of ALS, the symptoms may be so subtle they are frequently overlooked.

The course of the disease may include the following symptoms:

-Muscle weakness in the limbs
-Twitching and cramping of the muscles
-Thick speech and difficulty in projecting the voice
-In more advanced stages, difficulty swallowing or breathing and shortness of breath

As it progresses, the disease does not impair a person’s mind or intelligence. Additionally, ALS only attacks motor neurons, so the sense of sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell are not affected. The majority of ALS patients die from respiratory failure within three to five years of onset of initial symptoms. However, about 10 percent of those with ALS survive for 10 or more years.

How You Can Help

Whether or not you decide to take the Ice Bucket Challenge, making people aware of ALS is an important first step in supporting research that could lead to new treatments or even a cure. Learn more about ALS or other causes that are important to you and get involved.