My Friend Was Struck by ALS. Here’s How He’s Fighting Back.June 23, 2020
Brian Wallach's left hand cramped and he dropped his pen. Ten minutes later, it happened again. Annoying. He'd spent months preparing for this case. He'd joined the US Attorney's Office, a dream job, almost three years earlier. He was in the midst of prosecuting the surviving member of a group that had smuggled guns into Chicago from Indiana. The trial was a few weeks away. And now these cramps. He chalked it up to stress and moved on.
That was April 2017. On July 31, Brian and his wife, Sandra Abrevaya, had their second daughter, jaundiced but otherwise healthy, so all three stayed in the hospital a week. That's when Brian started coughing, barking, unable to finish a sentence. Sandra told him to see a doctor, so he did. He ticked off every symptom he could think of: the cough, the cramp, and also a muscle twitch in his left arm.
That physician sent Brian to a neurologist the next day. The neurologist talked through Brian's symptoms, looked at his tongue—it was subtly undulating, something Brian hadn't noticed. The doctor then told him the news: He likely had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS. Lou Gehrig's disease. If he was right, the doctor said, Brian had approximately six months to live.
That was the same day Sandra and their daughter had come home from the hospital. Brian barely knew what ALS was. It seemed impossible that it would have found him, much less imposed so strict a deadline.