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Pete Frates: ALS Patient And Man Behind The Ice Bucket Challenge

By Brad Broker

In just the past two weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $4 million, as well as priceless awareness, for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

If you are one of the few still in the dark, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a social media beast daring people to dump a bucket of ice water on themselves.  The “rules” of the challenge call for nominees to complete the task within 24 hours or make a donation to ALS or both.  While posting videos of the challenge online, participants nominate others to take the plunge and pay it forward.

“We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity and sense of humor that people are exhibiting as they take part in this impactful viral initiative.”

The challenge began in Massachusetts with former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012.  (Check out Pete’s own Ice Bucket Challenge video.)Frates wrote an article in July for The Bleacher Report commemorating the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech.  In the piece, Frates details his journey from college baseball star to realizing his fate with ALS.

During the 2012 season, Frates started to see a significant decrease in his game.  Fast balls, the “pitch I once feasted on” as a batter, were suddenly blowing by him.  The defining moment, he wrote in the article, came after being hit by a pitch on his wrist:

“The wrist wasn’t broken, but it just was not getting better. It was painful and weak, and it was starting to prevent me from doing things as simple as buttoning my shirt. On top of this, my day-to-day work schedule was being thrown into flux. Normally on the road by 6 a.m., I was now lucky to leave my apartment by 10 a.m.—often stopping for naps in the rest areas of the highway.”

Frates was diagnosed soon after that.  He is now paralyzed, can no longer speak, and eats through a feeding tube.  But he and his wife are also expecting their first child in September.  “It is this excitement that keeps my engines going at full strength,” he wrote. “I may not be able to say ‘I love you’ with my own voice, but the love I will feel will be every bit as strong.”

Frates proceeded to learn more about Lou Gehrig, who “now inspires me every day,” he wrote. “Upon my diagnosis, it became abundantly clear that my calling was to raise ALS awareness.”

And so, the Ice Bucket Challenge juggernaut was created.

According to the ALS Association, there is only one drug approved by the FDA to treat ALS, “which only modestly extends survival by two to three months. Consequently, ALS is 100 percent fatal. In addition to acclimating to the challenges that come with losing control of voluntary muscle movement, people with the disease progressively lose their ability to eat, speak, walk, and eventually breathe.”

Since July 29, more than 70,000 new donors have contributed to ALS raising over $4 million compared with just $1 million during the same period last year. That increase is entirely because of the Ice Bucket Challenge and Pete Frates.

This Physicians News story can be republished for free. (See details)

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