He was known as the Iron Horse, Biscuit Pants, and Buster. The son of German immigrants, he was the only one of four children to survive. His mother Christina worked as a maid and housekeeper. His father, Heinrich, was in and out of jobs, suffering from poor health and alcoholism.
This famous son's name is Henry Louis Gehrig. We know him as Lou Gehrig.
Lou's performance and world renowned records in baseball will always be remembered. However, today Lou is identified mostly by the illness which forced his early retirement, ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
According to ALSA.org, “ALS was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, but it wasn't until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease. Ending the career of one of the most beloved baseball players of all time, the disease is still most closely associated with his name.
“Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body.
“The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.”
For your information, ALS is not contagious, can strike anyone, and occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
According to ALSA.org, ALS can begin with muscle weakness in the hands, arms, legs or the muscles of speech, swallowing or breathing.
A person can then advance to twitching and cramping of muscles, especially those in the hands and feet. They can also experience impairment of the use of the arms and legs.
As the disease progresses, they may have "thick speech" and difficulty in projecting the voice.
In more advanced stages, there can be shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, and swallowing.
This year, we reached 75 years since Lou Gehrig was last up to bat. Sadly, “Biscuit pants” passed away two years later, after his final game, at the age of 37.
Isn't it exciting to witness the ALSA Ice Bucket Challenge which has generated over $80 million in donations, compared to $2.5 million during the same time period last year?
To all those ice bucket pouring fans, from what I've read about the humble “Iron Horse,” I am sure that he would salute you and graciously thank you for your donations, and ice cold drenching.
I agree with ALSA. Perhaps, someday we'll be able to name a cure after Lou Gehrig, instead of a disease.
Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County’s Family Week Foundation. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.