The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is one of the most successful social media fundraising campaigns in history. Not only is it raising funds to help cure ALS, it’s also bringing unbelievable awareness for the disease that has not been seen since Lou Gehrig’s speech 75 years ago.
No one knows the effects of ALS better than former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason, who has battled the disease for the last several years. At one point in time Gleason was one of the best safeties in the National Football League. He was agile, powerful, fast and fierce. However, now he battles each day just to do something as simple as talk.
The technology of today as opposed to Lou Gehrig’s day is quite different and much more advanced, and it’s making Gleason’s battle a bit more bearable. Not only is he able to be independent and get around in a highly advanced wheelchair, he can also utilize technology through that chair to use his eyes to type.
“Currently, I use a machine that helps me breathe, and I have a feeding tube for nutrition,” said Gleason. “I communicate by typing with my eyes onto a small computer tablet attached to my wheelchair. Medicare calls this a speech-generating device, or SGD. The words that I type can then be selected to be spoken or sent in an e-mail, text or chat. This technology is life sustaining, and it allows me to be independent and productive. In a sense, this tablet is a cure for me.”
Gleason retired from the NFL in 2008 after seven years in the league. In 2011, he created Team Gleason with family and friends to support people with ALS and to increase awareness for the disease.
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Watch Steve Gleason Speaking about ALS: