Bill Gulmy's Story

A Place of Hope for Patients and Families Living with ALS

Answers and Hope

When Bill and Kay Gulmy take the monthly trip from their home in Buckingham to the Lee Memorial Health System Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Clinic, they know they are going for more than just a medical exam. The clinic, which offers a variety of health care services for patients living with ALS, also gives patients a chance to meet with other people who are living with the condition.

"It's uplifting," Kay says. "It helps that we get to see all these people at one time. Each one is so important. If we have questions, we can always ask them here and someone will answer them."

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary movement. As time progresses, patients lose voluntary function and may lose the ability to walk, talk, eat and speak. There is no cure for the disease.

Care Now, and Later

Bill was diagnosed with ALS in 2010, when he became unsteady on his feet. Since then, a dedicated team of health care professionals has tracked his progress, monitoring everything from the food he eats to his balance. They have put a care plan into place, planning for the future when he may not be as mobile as he is now.

"They are very thorough," Kay says. "I feel like if there is something that we need, even if we do not know what that is, we will find it here."

The team has set up the future delivery of a device that will help Bill talk if his muscles begin to deteriorate and he can no longer speak for himself.

Multiple Providers, One Location

"We try to make it as easy for these patients and their families as possible," says clinic director Alan Cunningham. "We provide an environment with different disciplines in a single visit. In the past, patients had to go from the neurologist to the respiratory therapist to the nutritionist and other health professionals at different times. We put all those services in one building."

Once at the clinic, patients are assigned a room, then they settle in while the team members come in, one at a time. The rotating system assures that the patients do not have to move from one room to another, and can visit with each health care provider in a relaxed setting. The clinic health professionals give special attention to caregivers, too.

"We provide hope for them and let them know they have a place to come," Alan says. "They deserve the same level of compassion and caring that we give the patients."

Because ALS is a degenerative disease, patients' conditions can vary. Some can walk, talk and eat, while others are confined to a wheelchair and can no longer communicate verbally. Care providers at the clinic can make referrals and recommendations to area health agencies for families who need help at home.

For patients like Bill, the clinic is a place of inspiration. "When I come here, I get to hug everybody," he says.

The clinic is open 8 a.m.-12 p.m. the second Saturday of each month.