During Ice Bucket Challenge craze, Birmingham man describes life with ALS

A major fundraising coup sweeping the country has every one from celebrities to everyday people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads.The "Ice Bucket Challenge" for ALS has raised close to $10 million for research since July 29th!ALS is more often called Lou Gehrig's disease. It is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases worldwide and people of all races are affected. There is no cure...Richard Chatam's story is similar to many ALS patients. It took doctors about a year to diagnose him because there's no one test to do so. Doctors conduct a series of tests and use process of elimination.The average survival time with ALS is two to five years from diagnosis. Chatam was diagnosed Valentine's Day last year."The time I was diagnosed I was still walking and driving," he recalled. "Now, all I've got is the movement in my right hand and I'm totally wheel chair bound."Chatam once lived a life filled with physical activity, "I rode bicycles, mountain bikes, road bikes, lifted weights, played golf, backpacked."All of that changed when he was diagnosed with ALS. The disease progressively takes away the brain's ability to control muscle movement."It started in my left hand, and then my left foot and then up my left leg," said Chatam. "It's gone from stumbling around walking with a cane to walking with the aid of a walker, to the wheel chair.""It's a cruel disease," said Chatam's Wife Dora, who has become his personal caregiver. "It robs a person sort of their identity because they become essentially paralyzed."Chatam can use his right hand to control his own wheel chair, but only when his wife places his hand on the control."It gets me down sometimes when I hear people complaining about doing yard work or their back hurts because they did this or something hurts," said Chatam. "I want to tell them, you just don't know how lucky you got it."Dora Chatam uses a special machine to move her husband around."If he has an itch on his face, he cannot move his hand to itch his face, and that's very frustrating for him to have to constantly ask me to come do whatever because he can't do it for himself," she said. "But, I do it and don't mind a bit because I love that man."They'll celebrate 41 years of marriage next week. "There's nowhere I'd rather be than right here taking care of him," said Dora Chatam. "So we just face the future with whatever God has in store for us. We know where we're heading. So we just have a lot of joy."Much of that joy now comes from the ice bucket challenge. "I'm thrilled with it," said Richard Chatam. "I love it. I watch the ice bucket challenges on tv every time I can. Every time they come up, we stop and watch them and smile."Dora Chatam tried it herself Friday in honor of her husband. She wants everyone to try it and to donate. "My hope would be that this money- so much of it is going to research, to hopefully find a cure," said Dora Chatam. "I would love for it to be in our lifetime. I would love for it to be able to help Richard."Chatam is a Vietnam Veteran. Veterans are twice as likely to get ALS than civilians, regardless of which branch they've served in.WAYS TO DONATE:ALS Association, Alabama Chapter: Visit online at or call (800) 664-1242.National ALS Association:

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