One family with origins in Ewing, Virginia, just east of the state’s mountainous meeting point with Kentucky and Tennessee seem to suffer from a medical condition they knew as cancer of the throat. They lost the ability to chew, swallow, and speak, they lost weight, and then they died. A doctor recognized it as something else: ALS. The medical condition also is often called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
NOTE: ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. As this area degenerates, it leads to scarring or hardening (“sclerosis”) in the region.
Notable individuals who have been diagnosed with ALS include baseball great Lou Gehrig, theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Senator Jacob Javits, actor David Niven, “Sesame Street” creator Jon Stone, musician Lead Belly (Huddie Ledbetter), entertainer Dennis Day, jazz musician Charles Mingus, former vice president of the United States Henry A. Wallace, and others.
ALS often is inherited, passed on from one generation to another within a family. However, not everyone within the family develops ALS. By the time the symptoms are apparent, it is normally too late to slow down the disease.
An interesting article by Eric Boodman in the Statnews.com web site describes the search for the ALS victims and especially the search for those who had not yet developed the symptoms of ALS. Genealogists and medical experts worked together to find those susceptible to ALS amongst the widespread family members in an area around Cumberland Gap and especially those who have since moved elsewhere. Together, genealogists and medical experts are saving or prolonging the lives of many people.
You can read the interesting story at: http://bit.ly/2KKoN6C.
My thanks to newsletter reader Eilene Lyon for telling me about this interesting story.