Michael Najda Fighting ALS.

My name is Michael Najda. I am 52 years old.
Married 30 years to my wife Patricia.
We have two sons Michael Anthony (27)
and Zachary Ryan (16).

On September 28, 2012, I was given the life changing news that I have ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) it's been very emotional for us. We go every three months for check up's and to meet all the doctor's and therapists. What I am finding out about is the current state of break through treatments, procedures, medications, finances and the struggles of other families. Every case of ALS seems to be unique to the individual, but what I can say for sure is that it hits everyone the same emotionally. I can no longer walk, my hands are very weak, my voice is changing. I need help in the shower/bathroom/getting in bed/brushing my teeth/ washing me/dressing etc. I have a drop foot in my right leg. I am now completely confined to a powerwheelchair.

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. "A" means no or negative. "Myo" refers to muscle, and "Trophic" means nourishment-"No muscle nourishment." When a muscle has no nourishment, it "atrophies" or wastes away. "Lateral" identifies the areas in a person's spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening ("sclerosis") in the region.

As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement. Early symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. When muscles no longer receive the messages from the motor neurons that they require to function, the muscles begin to atrophy (become smaller). Limbs begin to look "thinner" as muscle tissue atrophies.

********** I CHALLENGE YOU  ********

Sit at the dinner table with your family and don't move for an hour. As you smell the delicious aroma of pepperoni pizza, let's say, you watch as everyone gobbles it up - not you though - you have lost the ability to eat. What goes with pizza, a cold beer of course - but not for you - you have lost the ability to swallow. The lively conversation is about your favorite sport, baseball - you just listen even though you have much to share - because you lost the ability to speak. Your young child reaches for a sharp knife - only you hear yourself yelling stop - you're helpless, you can't move or speak. Now your nose itches - too bad - you can't reach your arm up to scratch it. you've been sitting here for quite awhile and your leg is cramping - deal with it - you can't get up to walk it out - you can't even stretch your leg out - remember you can't move.

I could go on. When the hour is up (if you even made an hour) consider doing this 24/7 for months and months, maybe years. This is basically how it is for a person with ALS (PALS) and it gets worse. The mind works just fine, not the body.


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Michael Najda 
Clifton, NJ
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