BAKERSFIELD - Experts every 90 minutes someone is diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. There is no known cure for it, but a special event is raising awareness and helping people celebrate life.
Michael Gagner remembers having a few small symptoms.
"Basically, just a little weakness in my hands and strength and the fine motor skills," said Gagner.
In 1999, he was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
"I have a very limited breathing capacity to deal with this disease,” he said.
The doctors gave him two to five years, which is the average life expectancy of a person living with ALS, but Gagner is beating the odds, 13 years after diagnosis he’s still keeping busy.
"I try to stay pretty active. I do a lot of stuff on the computer and converse with my friends or I like to record of music," said Gagner.
For the 9th year in a row, he is leading a group of walkers. They call themselves ‘Mike’s Miracles.’ Gagner is joining other people living with the disease and their families in the Walk to Defeat ALS. The fundraiser helps pay for local programs that didn’t exist until recently.
"We use to drive to Los Angeles, two hours each way to just go to a support group," said Stacy Inman, who helped organize the event.
The Golden West Chapter of the ALS Association is raising more than $80,000 this year $15,000 of which came from ‘Mike’s Miracles.’
"I know in the bottom of my heart, I think it helps people live longer because of the support people get from our program," she said.
ALS can strike anyone at any time and until there is a cure, Gagner and the five hundred other people who registered for the walk this year hope to continue raising awareness and bringing hope to those fighting the disease.
"I think we're really changing lives, kind of one at a time. This disease is really different to deal with from a family level as well as an individual level and these funds really help out some of the people that don't have the resources they need," he said.