• August 2010

Join The Fight Against ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)

By Scott Golden
And Stephanie Cohen
Golden & Cohen

Over the course of a lifetime, there are certain events that can change someone forever. For me, that moment occurred when I found out that my cousin, Steven Seiden, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He lived with that disease for 12 years, but finally succumbed in 2002.

I watched him deteriorate, slowly at first and then rapidly. I, like everyone who knew and loved him, felt helpless. But I wanted to be helpful in any way that I could. I visited Steven many times in his final days, and was there for his funeral alongside my entire family.

On that day, I made a decision to become active in the fight against ALS.

I had made a promise to Steven — not verbally, but emotionally. After his death, I got involved with the ALS Association — DC/MD/VA Chapter, and hosted a gala to raise money to help those stricken by this deadly disease. From that point on, I viewed philanthropy in a whole different way. I made it a priority to give both time and money to this cause, and to other good causes, many that are health-related. I feel that I am a better person for it — and that was the gift my cousin gave me.

Every year in October, I now gather as many friends, colleagues, clients, and family members as possible, to participate in the DC Walk to Defeat ALS.

It is my way of honoring someone who impacted my life so greatly. I invite you to join me! Mark your calendar now for October 17. I’ll meet you at the Old Folklife Festival Area in downtown DC. Sign up here.

Understanding This Deadly Disease

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a motor neuron disease, first described in 1869 by the noted French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Today, it is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, for the famous baseball player put a spotlight on the disease in 1939 when he abruptly retired from baseball after being diagnosed with ALS.

ALS has also cut short the lives of other such notable and courageous individuals as:

  • Hall of Fame pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter
  • Boxing champion Ezzard Charles
  • NBA Hall of Fame basketball player George Yardley
  • Pro football player Glenn Montgomery
  • Golfer Jeff Julian
  • Golf caddie Bruce Edwards
  • British soccer player Jimmy Johnstone
  • Senator Jacob Javits
  • Former vice president of the United States Henry A. Wallace
  • U.S. Army General Maxwell Taylor
  • Actor Michael Zaslow
  • Actor David Niven
  • Jon Stone, the creator of Sesame Street
  • Television producer Scott Brazil
  • Entertainer Dennis Day
  • Musician Lead Belly (Huddie Ledbetter)
  • Jazz musician Charles Mingus
  • Composer Dimitri Shostakovich and
  • Photographer Eddie Adams

What are the symptoms?

Most commonly, the disease strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.

A neurodegenerative disease, it usually attacks both upper and lower motor neurons and causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. A common first symptom is a painless weakness in a hand, foot, arm, or leg, which occurs in more than half of all cases. Other early symptoms include difficulty speaking, swallowing, or walking.

What is the cause?

The biological mechanisms that cause ALS are only partially understood. The only known cause of ALS is a mutation of a specific gene: the SOD1 gene.

This mutation is believed to make a defective protein that is toxic to motor nerve cells. The SOD1 mutation, however, accounts for only 1 or 2 percent of ALS cases, or 20 percent of the familial (inherited) cases.

Familial ALS represents between 5 and 10 percent of all cases. The rest arise spontaneously and mysteriously, making seemingly random attacks on previously healthy adults. ALS can strike anyone at anytime.

What are the treatments?

Physicians have limited choices for treating ALS, and the options that do exist have only come into use within the last 10 years. Studies suggest that patients’ length of survival and quality of life are enhanced by night-time breathing assistance early in the course of the disease and by aggressive application of alternate feeding options to assure good nutrition, once swallowing becomes difficult.

At this time, riluzole is the only drug that has been approved by the FDA for treatment of ALS. In clinical trials, riluzole has shown a slight benefit in modestly increasing survival time.

Stem cell and gene therapy are promising areas of research. In a variety of studies, ALS mouse models are being used to develop treatments that may someday lead to similar human clinical trials. Gene therapy is one field of research where The ALS Association is concentrating support for more study.

More significant advances in ALS research have occurred in the last decade than in all of the time since Charcot first identified the disease.

Advances in technology and the genetic revolution are aiding researchers in unlocking the ALS mystery. As more scientists focus on this perplexing disease, the outlook for new understanding brightens each day.

For more information visit www.alsinfo.org.

Click here to learn more about the history of the ALS Association — DC/MD/VA Chapter.

About Scott Golden

Scott Golden is recognized as an industry leader in the small to mid-size insurance market, and ranks among the area’s top producers according to the Washington Business Journal’s Annual List.

He received a BS in Marketing from the University of Maryland in 1985, an MBA from George Washington University in 1990, and later a JD and LLM in taxation from the University of Baltimore. His advanced academic and legal degrees enable him to evaluate local and national mandates in conjunction with helping his clients prepare and implement the proper strategy.

Supporting the community is important to Scott, who advocates about the importance of lower health care rates on behalf of his clients. He has served on the Green Acres School Board of Trustees and sits on the board of ALS-DC in Maryland.

Scott is a native of upstate New York. He has been married to Golden & Cohen co-owner Stephanie Cohen since 1989. They have two children.

For more information about Scott’s insurance firm, visit www.golden-cohen.com contact Scott Golden by email at scott@golden-cohen.com.