Charlie Wedemeyer was one of Hawaii’s greatest athletes when he attended Punahou School in the 1960’s. He was the quarterback for the football team, but also excelled at basketball and baseball. Charlie was named the Hawaii Prep Athlete of the 1960’s and went on to play football for Michigan State.
In 1978 Charlie was the football coach at Los Gatos High School in California when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Like many athletes before him, including the great Lou Gehrig, Charlie Wedemeyer would find a fight he could not win in ALS.
WHAT IS ALS?
ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is a fatal motor neuron disease, affecting an estimated 30,000 Americans. ALS causes the degeneration of nerves that control voluntary muscle movement, like those that allow us to chew, speak, and walk. When the nerves die, they stop sending messages to the muscles which causes gradual weakening, twitching, and wasting away.
Patients with ALS become weak, but remain quite conscious. They are completely aware of their progressive disability. Eventually, the brain can no longer initiate or control voluntary movements. Death often results from respiratory failure when the nerves that control breathing lose the ability to function.
We don’t know what causes ALS. There is a genetic mutation that affects 5 to 10 percent of patients, but most cases are sporadic with no clear risk factors or family history of the disease. Athletes and those who have served in the military have a higher incidence of ALS, but we have not been able to find a clear causal connection for this observation. ALS is recognized as a service-connected disease by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT FOR ALS
There is no known cure for ALS. There are prescription