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In January of 2015, Chris began to experience shoulder pain. We attributed it to a muscle strain and at first did not think much of it. Then a few months later, his shoulder still hurt, and he began having difficulty turning the key to start the truck. He went to see his primary care provider who ordered some diagnostic tests such as ultrasound and MRI. In September he saw an orthopedic surgeon in Tucson. The doctor believed Chris’ pain and weakness to be neurological and referred him to a neurologist in Tucson.
On October 5th, 2015 we were given the devastating news that Chris likely had ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A few more tests were done and the following week we received the definitive diagnosis of ALS. A second opinion by University of Arizona’s ALS expert, Dr. Scherer, also diagnosed ALS. We learned that ALS is a “presumptive service connected disease” because a person who has been in the military is twice as likely to get ALS, and the VA is taking responsibility and covering most of his medical costs.
He is now part of the VA’s Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders team in Tucson, and also attends an ALS clinic every three months at U of A, where he sees Dr. Scherer and a team of specialists including pulmonary, speech & swallowing, an occupational therapist and an ALS Association representative.
ALS is different for every patient. The course it takes and the speed of progression cannot be predicted. Progression can plateau or speed up. The average survival rate after diagnosis is 2 to 5 years. ALS causes progressive paralysis of the entire body, including paralysis of the muscles used to speak and swallow, as well as the muscles used for breathing.