Stevensville man living with ALS is grateful for ice bucket challenge


MISSOULA, Mont. - The ice bucket challenge has taken social media by storm. The viral effort has raised $41.8 million in donations from July 29 to August 21 for the ALS Association, a Washington-based nonprofit that funds global research to find treatments and a cure for the disease.

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Eventually, motor neurons reach the brain and spinal cord causing the muscles to not work as much.

Patients in later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. It also affects speech. So far, there is no cure.

NBC Montana found that most patients are men and get diagnosed around the ages of 40 to 70.

For one Stevensville man living with ALS, he's overwhelmed by what's happening with the ice bucket challenge.

"It's been amazing. A month ago, it was estimated that less than half of the population knew what ALS was. Now I think everyone knows," said Scott Thomas, 26.

Doctors diagnosed Thomas with sporadic ALS, the most common form, when he was just 24-years-old. That's what up to 95 percent of ALS patients have. The doctor told Thomas he'd live just two or three more years.

"They're finding a lot more young people who are getting diagnosed," said Thomas.

But he's not fighting it alone. He's got his fiance, Sarah Lidstrom, and his family all supporting him.

"Scott's just an extremely positive person and kind of is the one that makes me and his family feel good about what's going on and so he kind of puts on a tough face," said Lidstrom.

Lidstrom met him long before ALS started to slowly steal him. She showed NBC Montana what his everyday life is like, from getting around, to wearing a special mask at night to clear carbon dioxide from his lungs.

"It's been a hard two years. I think more than anything, watching someone you care about that much go through the worst thing imaginable," said Lidstrom.

They've traveled around the U.S. to search for a cure. Thomas says his No. 1 priority is to raise awareness. The ice bucket challenge has done a lot.

"The hope that it's brought, really for the first time, is just substantial," said Lidstrom.

For now, Lidstrom and Thomas wait and hope and thank the kindness of strangers for raising awareness of ALS.

Lidstrom and Thomas tell NBC Montana that they have their own Facebook page where you can donate money to help find a cure. Click here to go to that page.

You can click on their link to the website ALS TDI and 100 percent of the money goes to research.

If you want to learn more about ALS click here.

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