40 Bombs and a Bucket of Ice

40 Bombs and a Bucket of Ice

Zion Profit '23, Guest Writer

In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge spread awareness for the genetic disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS. ALS is a disease that directly affects muscle strength throughout the body. Whether it be skeletal muscle or smooth muscle, ALS attacks it. 

ALS usually kills its victims within three to five years of a diagnosis because it attacks the smooth muscles of the respiratory system, and the victims usually have respiratory failure. Unfortunately, there is no cure, and there are not any treatments for the disease. Therefore, the victims gradually die from the inability to control motor functions such as chewing, walking or talking because their muscles become so weak. 

About 10% of people who live with ALS live past 10 years with the disease. Common symptoms of ALS are difficulty walking or doing normal daily activities, tripping and falling, and weakness in your legs, feet or ankles. The majority of people who are diagnosed with ALS are between the ages of 55 and 75, although the disease can happen at any age. 

A majority of the time, ALS appears spontaneously; however, around 10% of the time it can be genetic. This genetic mutation happens when there’s a defect found on the C9ORF72 gene. This is the gene that affects the motor functions inside the body. Although the disease is not common, it is potent, and it affects the people with it heavily.

ALS was popularized by the baseball player named Lou Gehrig who had to retire from baseball because the disease affected him so heavily. Gehrig, born in New York in 1903, was an exceptional baseball player. He was a part of six World Series championship teams along with numerous (seven straight) all star teams. Throughout his career, he was known as the Iron Man because of both his consistency and his ability to play every game no matter the circumstances. However, in the 1938 season, his life took a complete 180 degree turn. The Iron Man started to feel extremely fatigued on the field all of a sudden. During the season, he felt himself slow down a lot more than usual, and he felt that he couldn’t get back to 100% of his energy when he played. He went to the doctor’s office on June 19, 1939, and was diagnosed with ALS. Lou Gehrig proceeded to give one of the most famous speeches in baseball and American history. He used this speech to let Yankees fans and the whole world know about his ailment and how he was pushing through it. He thanked the fans by saying that he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” That year was the last time Lou Gehrig would play baseball, unfortunately. Two years after his ALS diagnosis, he died at the age of 37, 17 days before his birthday.