Lisa Gorsky, a respiratory therapist in Plainfield, Illinois, recently became an informal spokesperson for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but not as much for the hype and fundraising element of it as for the degree of awareness of ALS that it managed to raise across the United States and around the world. The Ice Bucket Challenge and it’s reason for being hit very close to home for Lisa as her father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS – or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – just a few months after Lisa began working as a respiratory therapist at a hospital in Chicago. She said that neither he nor his family members had an awareness of the ramifications of the diagnosis and that she remembers the sickening feeling of knowing she would have to tell them that, effectively, “he’s going to die.”
ALS is also known by its more popular moniker of Lou Gehrig’s disease and is a progressive neurogenerative motor neuron disease that essentially eats away at the motor nerve cells to the spinal cord and brain which subsequently produces severe muscle weakness. This in turn causes what is known as Respiratory insufficiency which ultimately is what causes death from the disease.
Lisa says that her father-in-law’s first symptom, like most other ALS patients, was increased breathlessness. He had mild emphysema from years of cigarette smoking but was accustomed to walking long distances from years of working in downtown Chicago and walking from the train station to his office and back every day.
Her loved one’s condition has inspired Lisa to make it her life’s mission to use her skills as a respiratory therapist to help ALS patients live a better life. She has been a respiratory therapist for 20 years but has made ALS treatment her focus and is looking forward to making an impact for those who suffer from this debilitating and ultimately deadly disease.