10 posts tagged “lou gehrig’s disease”

Leaving a Legacy of Data at PatientsLikeMe

Posted October 30th, 2012 by

ALS member Persevering in front of the US Capitol, where he was participating in ALS Advocacy Day 2011.Recently, our ALS community mourned the loss of Persevering, a highly proactive three-star member who was known for his unfailing efforts to support fellow patients, record and share data, report website problems and recruit ALS clinical trial participants.  Offline, he was also a tireless advocate for ALS awareness and research, attending conferences and lobbying on Capitol Hill.  Persevering passed away on September 10, 2012, at the age of 42, and is deeply missed by both our members and our staff.

While we are unable to recognize every member who passes away on our blog, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight how our community responds to loss as well share what happens to a deceased patient’s profile data.  When our community managers are notified of a member’s death – typically by a family member, caregiver or another member who was close to the person – they add the date of death to the member’s profile. This automatically updates their icon nugget with a black band to show that the member has passed away. (See image below.)

Persevering’s icon nugget – with the black band representing that he’s no longer with us after his three-year battle with ALS.

Also, our members often create a forum thread about the member, to which the tag “In Memory” is added by other members or the community manager so that it is searchable and “followable” using this tag. In these emotional threads, members acknowledge the deceased member’s contributions, reflect on the loss to the community and pay their respects.  Essentially, it’s a place for remembering a friend, telling stories, supporting one another, sharing funny memories and sending condolences to the family.

Each month, our community managers update our “In Memoriam” thread in the PatientsLikeMe forum with a list of members who have passed away during the previous month, and they include links to each profile. That way, members who haven’t logged on for a while or may have missed the news of someone’s passing can stay up-to-date.  Members can also choose to “follow” that thread if they wish to be notified whenever there is a new monthly update.

As for the profiles of members who have passed, they effectively create a legacy of data on our site, as their profile pages remain accessible to our members in perpetuity.  As a result, present and future members may continue to access these profiles to compare and learn from similar experiences.  Persevering’s detailed treatment, symptom and disease progression data, for example, will live on as a rich source of information and insight for other ALS patients.  What was his experience in the Phase II Study of NP001?  Read his comprehensive treatment history here.  What side effect led him to stop taking Riluzole?  Find out here.

Persevering’s Functional Rating Scale (FRS) data, showing his ALS progression over time.

So as you can see, Persevering is still helping others today, and we thank him for that.  We also want to recognize his contributions to our recent publication about NP001.  We have dedicated this new work to him as it was inspired by his keen desire as a “citizen scientist” to analyze and understand the impact of NP001 on his ALS progression.

As a result of these myriad achievements, Persevering will be posthumously awarded the Stephen Heywood Patients Today Award at the 8th Annual ALS Therapy Development Institute Leadership Summit on November 1st in Boston. Learn more about this beloved and influential ALS advocate by checking out the Facebook page created in his honor, entitled Persevering – You Are a Game Changer.


Spotlighted Blogger: ALS Patient Rachael of “Notes to Self”

Posted December 19th, 2011 by

ALS Blogger Rachel of "Notes to Self"

Welcome to the third installment of our new blog series featuring patient bloggers. Last week, we introduced you to Parkinson’s blogger Steve, and today, we’d like you to meet Rachael, a three-star member who has been a part of PatientsLikeMe’s flagship ALS community since the very beginning. In fact, she joined PatientsLikeMe in May 2006, just two months after being diagnosed with this progressive neurological disorder (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Her blog is called “Notes to Self,” and it’s a candid and charming journal of the full life she leads, despite her condition.

1.  What role does your blog play in your life?

As the title suggests, my blog is [filled with] “Notes to Self.” I use it as an aide memoir and an excuse to be verbose as my voice fails me. It is useful to direct people who ask about events in my life when repetition of the story would be tiring. I also find that it helps me to work through my often complicated emotions in dealing with the disease and its incumbent challenges.

2.  Tell us about using an eye gaze system to write your blog posts and more.

As I have blogged on many occasions, the Eye Gaze System [a communication system directed by eye movements] is invaluable to me. I was fortunate enough to get the system before my voice and keyboard dexterity gave up entirely. I have become used to using it, and the transition has been less traumatic than it otherwise might have been. Low-tech communication is all very well in an emergency but cannot compensate for speech.

The Eye Gaze allows me to converse on an almost level footing, conveying thoughts and observations, expressing myself in my own style with all its complexities and idiosyncrasies. The Eye Gaze also allows me to indulge my “inner geek” and access the Internet and Skype to communicate with far flung friends and family.

3.  You’re a big user of the InstantMe tool at PatientsLikeMe.  Why?

I have always been quite an obsessive character. I am possibly overworking the PatientsLikeMe facility. I find it of immeasurable help to have a diarized record of my progression as it relates to my daily life. I tend to ramble, so I find the strict regimen of 140 characters helpful.

A Snapshot of the InstantMe Survey Rachael Takes Daily at PatientsLikeMe (Click Through to See Her Latest Entries)

A while back, I worried about my memory loss. I had a test done, and it showed no signs of the frontal lobe dementia that terrified me. My consultant reassured me that my short term memory loss was within “normal” parameters. To me it was still unacceptable. Because I have so many small things to remember that people without this condition would find insignificant, something has to give. Having a log helps my recollection. It is also useful for caregivers to reference and saves me effort and energy that I often do not have. It makes my clinical review a whole lot easier and accurate.

4.  In your last post, you talk about reconnecting with friends you’d pulled away from.  Tell us about that.

When I was first diagnosed, I was given the usual prognosis “18 months to live”. Some friends ran away but I realize now that I also withdrew from many people in my struggle to come to terms with the disease. 18 months has come and gone a number of times. Over time I had to re-evaluate my response. Instead of planning for dying I needed to plan for living. Part of this included giving people the opportunity to be involved in my life.

It is, on reflection, a patronizing thing to withdraw friendship without at least offering the choice. Life with ALS is difficult, but the challenges are not insurmountable. I thoroughly enjoy my life and my friends both old and new. Anyone reading my “InstantMe” [history] will know that I have an active social life and a busy home.