Hilde Heard has been navigating life with ALS for six years. The progressive disease affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing muscles to waste away.
“I can still speak and I can still swallow which is kind of rare for ALS.”
As the disease worsens, patients require therapies to manage their dwindling abilities.
“They would have to go to a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, respiratory therapist, dietician and then social service would visit them,” says Dr. Nima Mowzoon, a neurologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Doctors found it beneficial to bring the professionals together in a single ALS clinic. Issue was, they were few and far between.
Travel for someone with ALS can be a roadblock in itself. Unless there’s a clinic within a regional proximity, some of these group services are out of reach.
“At this point in my disease I would find it unimaginable to go to Miami for doctor visits. It would be an overnight stay, taking a lot of equipment and it would just not be an option,” says Heard.
So Lee Memorial Health System partnered with the ALS Association of Florida to create an ALS clinic in Fort Myers.
“You never get pushed from room to room. The nutrition person comes in, the PT comes in, the OT comes in, the pulmonary and social workers come, then the doctor comes in. It’s a very stress free experience,” says Heard.
Treating symptoms head on puts patients like Hilde in the driver’s seat. On a small level, steering their own course.
“Bottom line is the clinic helps people live a good quality of life,” says Dr. Mowzoon.