Thursday’s episode of "ER" highlighted ALS. A devastating illness known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS literally traps its victims inside of their bodies.
Jack Parker was once a runner’s runner. With 14 marathons to his credit, he put in enough practice miles to circle the globe twice. Then, in 2002, ALS changed his life.
“Three and a half years since I was diagnosed. About 50 percent of the people will die within two years, another 30 percent for a total of 80 percent will die by five years. The average life span is less than three years,” Parker said.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a fancy way of saying the mind is willing, but the body is unable because of nerve degeneration.
"This one is about to claw up a little bit, whereas this one is still straight. Unfortunately, though this one will follow the path of this one at some time,” said Parker.
The ALS Association of Georgia helps people living with the disease with everything from wheelchairs to computers.
“Very few people know what it is, but when you do -- when you’re touched by it, you never forget it’s a devastating disease, but it’s something our patients are battling,” said Keith Fenton of the ALS Association of Georgia.
If Jack Parker’s body has to become a prison, then he chooses to serve his life sentence with hope.
“There is no cure. There's really no effective treatment, so it's a matter of taking each day and taking what it's worth and what you can do with it, Parker said.
Parker, like many, believes that hope for a cure lies with stem cell research.