Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Patients with the disease lose coordination and muscle strength and live an average of three to five years after diagnosis.
In 2009 Lee Memorial Health System opened the ALS Clinic, which provides a number of health care services on the second Saturday of the month, giving patients and their caregivers the convenience of driving to one location. “ALS decreases a patient’s mobility,” says Carol Emmick, clinic coordinator. “Getting the patient ready, into the car, here and doing daily activities wears out the patient and the caregiver. This way they see a team, and get several services at once.”
The clinic offers physical, occupational, respiratory and speech therapy; dietitians; social work and physician services. All patients get to visit with a neurologist each time they attend the clinic. Patients get a physician referral before enrolling in the clinic.
The monthly visits have helped Leon Peek, 62. Leon was diagnosed eight years ago and was the clinic’s first patient. “Without the clinic, you are left on your own for services,” he says. “At the clinic they give us short-term and long-term goals. We would not be able to put together our own circle of professionals without it.”
Before the clinic opened, Leon’s wife, Sandy, drove him to appointments in St. Petersburg. The drive took a toll on both of them, and Sandy did not feel safe driving on the highway. “To have this clinic here is a godsend,” she says. “Everyone at the clinic is so attentive to what we need.”
Carol says the goal is to provide comfort and care to each patient as the disease progresses. “We want to do anything to make their quality of life better,” she says.
ALS Clinic - SWFL