ALS and Vets

He was the picture of health…a poster boy for the strength of the U.S. military. But Michael Donnolly can't talk to us today. Michael's father Tom says sadly, "Michael is now totally immobile, he is nourished by a feeding tube and his respiration is supported by a ventilating machine."

Michael is at home, dying in bed from Lou Gheri's disease… also known as ALS. "The only limited amount left to him is his ability slightly to move his head and his eyeballs, and that's how he communicates." reports his father Tom. Michael was the impetus for previous studies suggesting that the risk of ALS is increased among Gulf War veterans.

That study prompted the latest research which shows among more than 268,000 veterans, in New York and elsewhere, there were a total of 274 deaths from ALS, a higher rate than that among those who never served in the military. The risk was seen in veterans who served in all branches of military. And it didn't just affect gulf war veterans. It also affected veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, and probably Vietnam as well. Tom believes Michael was exposed to insecticide on a U.S. base, and to nerve poisons abroad. "In flying, in the Persian gulf, he was in a toxic soup, they were bombing chemical warfare depots and manufacturing facilities, and all that stuff went up into the air." exclaims Tom.

Dr. Linda Schwartz is a public health expert and Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs. She agrees with Tom. "Military service in and of itself is an occupational hazard. You are exposed to toxins and conditions." says Dr. Schwartz. "I don't believe there's a single causative agent that you can hang your hat on."

For Michael, who recorded his memoirs of health and sickness in this book, there are no answers. And answers are what his father desperately wants from the Department of Defense. "This study apparently makes it very clear that it's somehow associated with the military. That's part of DOD's charge. Do it, and do it now. Quick like a bunny, so my boy can benefit from it."

For more information on Lou Gehrig's disease, click here.


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