Owen Blake has been actively involved in the Stettler area for over 30 years – until he was stricken with a debilitating disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – ALS – or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Now the generous and giving man wants to help others who also suffer from the disease which causes nerve cells to die continuously, voluntary muscles to become paralyzed and senses to become impaired although the intellect may remain unaffected.
“I want to help manually distribute 5,000 envelopes to people in the community to invite people to donate to ALS research,” said Blake, noting that he plans to hit Main Street in his motorized wheelchair Sept. 30.
“I’m hoping to get at least $10 in each envelope.”
Of these donations, 75 per cent will be designated to research through ALS Canada while 25 per cent will go to client services in Alberta through ALS Alberta for people suffering from ALS.
“Each day in Canada, three people are diagnosed with ALS and three people die of ALS, so it’s becoming more prevalent,” said Blake.
Envelopes will also be available at the offices of Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Community Development, Stettler Independent and ATB Financial.
“Everyone can be a part of it,” said Blake, 61 years young who was diagnosed with the disease on Jan. 21, 2009.
“It’s going to take research funding to help find a cure.”
“I can’t tell people how to avoid or to prevent this disease, because there is no known cure.”
“But what I can and want to do is raise funds for research,” said Blake, who has lost much of his physical mobility.
“We can’t cure people who have it.”
“We’ve got to help raise funds to help research to help find a cause and work on a cure,” said Blake.
While he remains coherent with his mind and communication, that will only deteriorate over the next months and years, he believes.
“Now I need help with doing everything and it will only get worse,” said Blake, who was honoured as Male Citizen of the Year in 2009 as selected by Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Community Development.
“The frustrating part of it is not being able to do things I was able to do before I was diagnosed with ALS.”
“I will eventually lose all mobility.”
“It affects all part of the both and life in time,” said Blake.
“I can’t walk, I get tired out easily, I can’t brush my teeth or squeeze a tube of toothpaste.”
“I will soon have to get someone else to dress me.”
Eventually everything will be done for me 24 hours-a-day. seven-days-a week.”
After he and his wife Pam moved to Stettler 39 years ago, Blake quickly became active in the community with various health, social and recreation programs and services.
Blake said he remembered actually feeling something being wrong with his health about five years ago, when his legs started cramping up badly.
“I always felt like I was drowning, unable to get my breath,” said Blake.
Consider these facts about ALS:
• About 3,000 Canadians currently live with ALS, the most common cause of neurological death in Canada.
• 99 per cent die within two to five years of diagnosis – some will die within a few short months – some will live longer than five years.
• ALS affects the whole family as 90 per cent of care is shouldered by family caregivers and ALS is a costly disease emotionally, physically and financially.
• ALS is not contagious and less than 10 per cent are familial ALS.
• The ALS Society of Canada funds research for a cure
• The ALS Society of Alberta provides:
• quality care and support to those affected by ALS
• information and referrals
• information to build awareness and advocacy