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A Destination for ALS Patients: May 10, 2012

It’s personal for Nancy Bailey.

“My husband was diagnosed with ALS in 1997. He lost his battle in 2000.”

She turned her grief into action, helping start a specialized clinic in Fort Myers to help people with ALS maintain their quality of life.

“After Jeff died I had to figure out what to do with my journey. What did I learn from it, where could I go and how could I take something so horrific and turn it into something positive for my life,” says Bailey, a volunteer for Lee Memorial Health System’s ALS clinic.

A devastating neurological disease, ALS robs people of their muscle function. Many know it as Lou Gherig’s Disease. It is always fatal but doctors learned that people can live longer and better with focused therapies.

“We opened our ALS clinic September of 2009. We are very fortunate to have spacious rooms big enough for the patient and family members all to join in and then the professionals to rotate through the room,” says Carol Emmick, coordinator for Lee Memorial Health System’s ALS clinic.

Each room looks like a hotel suite because the ALS clinic shares space with a sleep lab. The second Saturday of every month health experts gather to meet one-on-one with patients.

“The patient is escorted by a volunteer to a room, they stay in that room and different professionals will travel through that room to assess their needs. The respiratory therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, registered dietician and a social worker,” says Emmick.

This clinic covers a ten county area, any farther and it becomes too difficult to travel. The clinic is all about making lives easier.

“If they’re having a hard time eating then we will assess them and make sure that they get the utensils to improve their eating. If they need a motorized wheelchair then we have the ability to get that for them,” says Emmick.

Now a volunteer in the clinic she helped found, Nancy created a peaceful destination.

“I’m very thankful that the patients that are diagnosed with ALS have access to something that we never had access to. As I see the smiles on their faces and the treatment which they receive, that makes me happy.”