H

ANOVER, Mass. — “I cry every day,” Kevin Gosnell said. He sat nearly motionless in his wheelchair, parked in the corner of his living room.

Tears and stillness have never been his style. He was the captain of his college football team. He built a $25 million asphalt company. And he’s raised three boys with his wife, Kathy, his college sweetheart.

But Gosnell was diagnosed last spring with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a neurodegenerative disorder often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s progressing rapidly. “I won’t see the anniversary of my diagnosis,” he said.

advertisement

So he’s put his remaining energy into forming a partnership to bring together the leading neurologists, researchers, and patient advocates in Massachusetts to collaborate across institutional lines. Called ALS One, the group plans to work toward a cure — and in the meantime, to better support patients and their families.

Gosnell has also launched a related group, ALS Knights, to raise money for research. In the last four months, 1,200 supporters have raised $650,000, Gosnell said.

“ALS One is the best use of the time I have left,” Gosnell said.

“Nobody should die like this,” he added. “And there is no good reason that, 75 years after Gehrig died, we still don’t have a cure for this thing.”

ALS has had high-profile backers before. The ice bucket challenge, which went viral with videos of celebrities dumping cold water on their heads, has raised more than $220 million for the ALS Association.

But more is needed, said Dr. Eric Sorenson, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic, where Lou Gehrig received treatment in 1939. More than 12,000 people in the United States have ALS, according to the National Institutes of Health. There is no cure. There is no way to stop or even slow the progression.

“The problem is ALS affects far fewer people than say, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s,” Sorenson said. Those illnesses end up with a good deal of available funding for neurology research, he said.

Dr. Robert Brown Jr., chair of neurology at the University of Massachusetts medical school, has signed on as an ALS One partner. He hopes the group will reduce the amount of time researchers like him spend raising money.

“The good news is that the field of ALS research is attracting the best minds, which was not true 30 years ago,” he said. “And now we have a group of passionately committed people investing in it.”

At home, Gosnell speaks to his son, Joey, in a shorthand only they know. The teen responds by pushing aside the blanket over his father’s knees and manually extending his right leg, gently holding it for a time until the feeling comes back.

“Because I can’t move my leg, sometimes it falls asleep,” Gosnell explained.

The cruelty and rapid progression of his ALS is apparent. A video from last fall shows him gesticulating to the rhythm of his own words, passionately and urgently enunciated. Now, his arms rest motionless on his wheelchair, even when he’s saying something important.

“Every day is hard. It’s overwhelming,” Kathy said. “Every week, you think you got a routine down, then it changes.”

Gosnell’s few movements now are achingly purposeful — small adjustments to his chair via the tiny controls at his left hand, a slight turn of his head to face his wife and sons.

He wears a microphone now. “My diaphragm is going,” he explained. He can’t take in enough air to project his voice, so the amplifier helps him to be heard.

And he has been heard. A lot. He has been speaking to groups around Massachusetts. Last fall, he gave a TED talk.

At the Gosnell house, the looming reality of Kevin’s death tempers any excitement over the launch of ALS One.

Scott, the oldest son, is away at college. Fraternal twins Joey and Jake, high school juniors with their mom’s large eyes and their dad’s jawline, sit on the couch with their mother. They say facing their father’s death gives them perspective.

“[ALS] is so spontaneous,” Jake said. “Everything you dreamed of with your dad isn’t just there. And you know, it makes everything seem so small. People worried about classes or a test just seems like nothing.”

“We value relationships a lot more now,” said Joey, “and pay a lot less attention to material things. It’s important that we learn these things.”

Dad looked at his wife and children, his eyes getting a bit wet.

“I’m so blessed,” he said.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • “I don’t really remember much about the day or the month or two following. I do remember sitting in my doctor’s office as she told me I was HIV positive. I remember looking at the painting on the wall. I became instantly numb and everything became a blur.”

    I spent so much money buying drugs from hospitals hoping that i will be cured, but all to no avail. I contacted so many doctors, which they indeed tried their best but was unable to provide for me a possible cure, luckily a good friend of mine told me about a herbal doctor, (Dr. Vikraft Sambo).

    At first i never wanted to contact him because i have been fraud by lots of online scam. After much chat and enquiry with the doctor, i decide to take a leap of faith because i have nothing to loose.

    To my greatest surprise, Dr. Vikraft Sambo NEVER DEMANDED FOR AN UPFRONT FEE when i contacted him. All he did was to give me a Herbal Medicine and guidelines on how i am to take them. I followed all procedures as instructed, and after 13 days i went back for a check up, and i was tested NEGATIVE.

    If you are interested in getting cured of your own Illness such as:

    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
    Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
    Stroke
    Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
    Lower Respiratory Infections
    Diarrheal Diseases
    Diabetes Mellitus

    I just want to encourage all individuals out there living with the above diseases,

    That there is still a huge chance that you can get well again. You can contact Dr. Vikraft Sambo using his email (vikraft.sambo@gmail.com).

    Doctor Vikraft Sambo will never ask you for an upfront fee payment.

    BEWARE OF FRAUDSTERS ONLINE.

  • (MUST READ: HOW I GOT CURED FROM ALS (LOU GEHRIGS DISEASE)
    I am sienna Bale, I was diagnosed of ALS (Lou Gherigs Disease) in 2013, the doctor told me there is no permanent cure for the disease, i was given medication to slow down the progress of the disease, at the initial stage it was not so bad till it progressed to the end middle stage were i had difficulties going about my daily functions as i constantly felt weakness in my legs, ankles and feet, i was totally devastated till my husband’s co-worker Mr Kenneth told us about a herbal doctor from west Africa who have herbal medicines for all kind of diseases including ALS, when i contact this herbal doctor via his website, he sent me two bottles of ALS herbal medicine through courier service, when i received this herbal medicine, he gave me step by instructions on how to apply it, when i applied it as instructed, i was cured of the disease within 22-24 days of usage. Contact this great herbal doctor via his website at http://www.drsamodaspellhome.onnect.org

    • Can i know how much u paid for the medicine and what color of the medicine and also the taste tks can u explain to us in more details after taking the medicine how do you feel that all tks

Recommended Stories

Sign up for our
Daily Recap newsletter

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine — delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.