AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - The ice bucket challenge that swept the nation this summer has helped generate more than $113 million in donations to the national ALS Association so far.
"That's great news," said Dr. Michael H. Rivner, Director of the Georgia Regents ALS Clinic, "but what we really need are local donations. By giving locally, you can have a direct impact on the lives of patients treated right here in Augusta."
One of the ways to support the Georgia Regents ALS Clinic is by participating in the Beat Feet for ALS fundraising walk at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 27 at Augusta's Riverwalk. Proceeds from the walk will help fund additional resources and equipment to enhance the lives of local patients with this terminal disease.
"Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is devastating. The muscles start to deteriorate rapidly until you are essentially trapped inside your own body," Rivner said. "There is no cure, and, sadly, most patients will die within five years of their first symptoms."
About 6,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS each year. The nationally accredited Georgia Regents ALS Clinic serves about 150 patients across the Southeast.
The clinic, which opened in 2004 through a partnership between the Georgia Regents Neuroscience Center and the ALS Association of Georgia, takes a multidisciplinary and coordinated approach to patient care. Instead of scheduling multiple appointments and trips, patients are able to see neurologists; nurses; physical, occupational, and speech therapists; social workers; dietitians; respiratory therapists; and equipment specialists all on the same day. This is especially helpful for ALS patients because of diminishing mobility.
The Georgia Regents ALS team sees patients on the second Friday of each month in Augusta and the fourth Friday of each month at a satellite clinic in Macon. They assess disease progression, functional status, family concerns, and equipment, transportation and referral needs. In addition, family and caregiver training and support are incorporated into the time spent with each patient.
"It could cost as much as $250,000 a year to treat just one patient with ALS, and insurance companies don't necessarily pay for all of that. But studies have shown that being seen in a multidisciplinary clinic improves the longevity of patients – their health and quality of life, and that's what we want to achieve for our patients and their families," said Rivner.
Donations support clinical trials – such as an upcoming study on magnetic stimulation – and other ALS research efforts being conducted at GRU, he said.
To register for the walk or make a donation, visit walk.ALSGRU.com or contact Brandy Quarles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-721-2681. You can also make a donation directly to the Georgia Regents ALS Clinic on the website or make a check payable to ALS Clinic (Fund 1078), and mail it to 1120 15th St., BP-4390, Augusta, GA 30912.