One ALS patient considers himself the luckiest man on earth, just as Lou Gehrig did in his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939. The disease named after the baseball player defeated him two years later.
Chicago Now published an interview with Barry Coughlin who has become quite a celebrity himself as one of the longest living ALS survivors. He is a “medical miracle” featured in many publications.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease affects nerve cells that control muscles. Patients progressively experience the death of the motor neurons leading to muscular atrophy, which eventually leads to death.
Barry was diagnosed with ALS in 2001, and shouldn’t be alive as patients’ life-expectancy, once diagnosed, is 3-5 years. Barry beat the odds, and considers himself the luckiest man on earth, and he gives all the credit for still being alive to medical marijuana.
80% body function lost
Barry lost 50% of his ability to function within two years, and after 5 years 80% was lost. He doesn’t require a breathing apparatus or feeding tubes, which is remarkable.
He met fellow “medical miracle,” and ALS patient Cathy Jordan in 2001. She was diagnosed in 1986, and still tours the US talking about medical cannabis. Meeting her convinced Barry to follow her advice.
He applied for the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) in December 2015. His fingerprints could not be taken because of the effect of the disease, and he then had to get FBI clearance, which took until March 2016 when he finally got his medical marijuana card.
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Access progressively easier
There were not many dispensaries in southern Illinois at the time, and Barry had to travel 3 hours to get his medical cannabis, this later became 2 hours, and quite recently he joined The Effingham Clinic when it opened. It takes less than an hour round trip now, and Barry loves the staff. He says he has found his “medical cannabis home.”
Barry uses a modified vaporizer for easy access, and prefers strain G6. He use flowers, wax and shatter. He sometimes has muscle spasms, which is alleviated by the medical cannabis, he has no pain, and most importantly, the integrity of his motor neurons have been maintained. The death of motor neurons leads to muscular atrophy, which eventually causes death.
ALS humbled him
Eight years ago Barry said he will never experience the fame and fortune of being a professional baseball player, but ALS has humbled him. It opened the door to opportunities previously unknown, and has uncovered the meaning of family and friendship.
He says that though his body deteriorates a little more every year, his mind grows in understanding the meaning of life, love, and happiness, making him “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”