What is ALS? Oklahomans affected talk about the disease

OKLAHOMA CITY – Celebrities are dousing themselves with cold water to raise awareness and money for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS.

KJ 103 DJ Darsha Watkins says awareness for this disease means the world.

“This is such a small gesture for such a huge impact and it means so much to me and my family,” said Watkins.

Watkins’ father died of ALS more than 10 years ago.

Two years before he died, he injured his ankle in a car accident.

“Usually when you sprain your ankle, it gets better, but it didn’t so that’s what kind of made him realize this is not okay,” said Watkins.

After months of testing, the family received a gut wrenching diagnosis.

“I remember them saying ‘this is the Great Dane of diseases.'” said Watkins.

It was a quick downfall for Michael Watkins.

“It started out with his feet. He lost all movement,” said Watkins said. ” [It] went to his hands and just kind of worked its way. I mean he couldn’t talk for about a year. It was quick. He was basically entombed in his own body.”

At 43, Michael died of respiratory complications from his illness.

ALS, referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, attacks the nerve cells to the brain and spinal cord, eventually leaving patients paralyzed.

“The other thing that makes it so terrible is there’s no known cause for it. There’s no treatment. There’s no cure,” said Sarah Bailey with the MDA.

Bailey says most patients have no family history.

Although ALS most commonly strikes people between the age of 40 to 70,  the disease doesn’t discriminate, striking every race and ethnicity.

For Darsha , the ice bucket challenge is key in finding a cure.

“I think awareness in general so when you see a patient with it you don’t think oh they’re special or whatever like they did to my dad. They know what it is so they can be more empathetic.”

For more information on ALS visit MDA.org and ALSA.org.