What is ALS and why did it inspire ice bucket challenges at Swedish?

September 12, 2014 Michelle Scheff

Employees of Swedish Cherry Hill Outpatient Rehabilitation and Neurology Departments took the plunge and participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of ALS and funding for ALS research.  (Click here to see their video on Facebook.)

Before the ALS clinic team takes the ice bucket challenge
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), most commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease which affects the motor neurons responsible for voluntary movements and muscle power. As the disease progresses, individuals living with ALS may lose their ability to move and control the muscles of their extremities, torso, head and mouth which can make completion of basic activities such as walking, eating, talking and even breathing very difficult.

Unfortunately, the disease has no cure and only one medication has been approved for the treatment of ALS. Research is making strides towards understanding the underlying physiology and genetic makeup of the disease. Because of the limited medical interventions available, the current standard treatment for ALS primarily involves the management of symptoms.

The complex needs of people living with ALS require a number of medical and rehabilitation services most effectively provided in a multidisciplinary setting known as an ALS Clinic. Under the direction of Dr. Eric Gierke, a neurologist with the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, Swedish Medical Center opened an ALS Clinic at the Cherry Hill Campus in March 2014. Through this clinic, clients have access to a number of medical and rehabilitation specialists including neurology, physiatry, pulmonology, social work, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. These specialists work collaboratively to ensure the highest level of care is provided.

Another important member of the team is the ALS Association. This national non-profit organization is a prominent advocate for people living with ALS and provides support on a number of different levels from global research to local chapters. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised unprecedented funds for the ALS Association so that they may continue working on their important mission. Additionally, the challenge has increased public awareness of a disease many did not fully understand. The Swedish ALS Clinic is thrilled to be a part of this movement. We challenge our community to learn more about what you can do to help people living with ALS.

The disease may have touched someone you know - a family member, a colleague, a neighbor; or someone you have not met but is in need of valuable services. With appropriate intervention and support, individuals with ALS can successfully manage symptoms so that a fulfilling and meaningful life can be led as the disease progresses. We ask you, our Seattle community, to think about how you may help someone living with the disease and then take action.  


Ed. note: We know some of you came over from Swedish's Facebook page to see if our chief executive took the ice bucket challenge - and he did! See his video below along with some other pictures of ice bucket challenges. If you have another photo of an ice bucket challenge at Swedish, you can send it to us at blog@swedish.org to be added!

A group of Swedish/Issaquah caregivers taking the challenge

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