A terrible disease—ALSFree Access

A terrible disease—ALS

The recent death of scientist Steven Hawking has focused attention on the disease that crippled him and ultimately claimed his life, but the most noteworthy thing about his battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) was his long survival with it. He was diagnosed with it in 1963 and lived until March of this year—55 years. But, rare as this disease is, he was not the only one who suffered or suffers from it.

My father, Elmer Domke, died much too young. He was 56 years old and was beginning to think about retirement when he noticed he was having trouble with his hands. He was losing control of them and also losing strength.

He was a retail jeweler and watchmaker, and losing manual dexterity meant he couldn’t continue doing what he did best—repairing those tiny mechanisms that tell us what time it is. I suppose he thought it would go away, but it got worse. So he went to the family doctor and was told he needed to be tested.

What the tests revealed was really bad news. He had the incurable disease—ALS. Since this was the disease that claimed the life of famed baseball player Lou Gehrig, many people call it Lou Gehrig’s Disease. But to me it will always be Elmer Domke’s Disease. And, I guess that would be the case for anyone who has lost a relative or friend to this crippling disease.

One of the first things I asked when I learned about ALS was, is it hereditary? Could I get it? The answers were no and yes. It isn’t hereditary in most cases—only about 1 percent can inherit it from a parent. Doctors don’t really know what causes it.

The best news so far is that certain treatments can slow it down, but it remains incurable and most people who get it only survive a few years. My dad didn’t get two years from the time he was diagnosed. I was in military service stationed overseas, and by the time I was able to be there to see him he was already completely paralyzed. He couldn’t talk and he couldn’t feed himself. Seeing him that way was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced.

I always knew I would probably outlive my parents, but I just never expected my dad to die so young.  I was angry for a while. Eventually I got over my anger, but I still want this disease researched and a cure found. The ALS Foundation helps fund research and possible treatment, and I have donated to them through United Way and other charities.

What else can I do? I celebrate his life and try to honor him with mine. That’s the best I can do. I’m glad I was able to spend a little time with him near the end. Meanwhile I pray we will eventually know enough about this terrible disease to find a cure for it.

WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.

4 responses to “A terrible disease—ALS”

  1. Tina says:

    I feel your pain. I lost my mother in 1979, my uncle, grandmother 2 cousins and last October my brother, all to ALS .Our family was told it was not heritary however time had told us differently. We really are no further since 1979 with medical treatments or medications . Getting insurance companies to cover what you need is a nightmare most families go broke caring for their loved one. my family members have only lasted a year from diagnoses
    I just wanted you to know, that i read my life in your story but mine was magnified a bit. Take care of yourself, it’s a tough job for families and caregivers but mostly it’s a ruthless disease for the patient.

  2. Corrine Gaffin says:

    i was diagnosed 2011. i was diagnosed with the bulbar form of ALS and was given one year to live. My symptoms progressed quickly. Soon i was having difficulty breathing, swallowing and even walking short distances. With the help of Natural Herbal Garden natural herbs I have been able to reverse my symptoms using diet, herbs, which i feel has made the most difference. The ALS natural formula immensely helped my condition, it reversed my ALS. my slurred speech. And then the inability to eat without getting choked, breathing, and coughing. gradually disappeared. Visit NATURAL HERBAL GARDENS via their official web-site

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  4. Howell says:

    HERBAL FORMULA

    I was diagnosed with ALS in April 2017 and I decided to fight this naturally by better diet, natural herbs, organic food, and eliminating all toxins in my life. I can gladly say my fight is over, after using ALS herbal remedy I purchased from Best Health Herbal Centre, the herbal remedy drastically slowed my progression the first week of usage and reversed my ALS the last week of usage. I used the ALS herbal remedy for only six weeks.

    I am a man of faith and I believe that when HOPE is lost ALS wins. Believe you can beat this disease naturally and have faith that nothing is bigger than God.

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