BOSTON -- The challenges of hosting a group of BIDMC patients with ALS and related disorders at a Red Sox game on July 4 were many, but the rewards outweighed the tasks a million to one.
"The day at Fenway was magical," says Lissa Robins Kapust, program manager in the Cognitive Neurology Unit. "We filled a Red Sox Executive Box with 25 smiling patients, family members and BIDMC/ALS staff. The day went flawlessly - even sunny skies. The Sox loss was unfortunate, but put no damper on a fabulous day."
In addition to watching the game and enjoying a full spread of food provided by the Red Sox, several of the patients made it down to the field as retired Sox pitcher Curt Shilling read the Lou Gehrig "luckiest man alive" speech. It was the 70
th anniversary of the day Gehrig announced publicly that he was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) while still in the prime of his baseball career. Similar events took place in Major League Baseball venues across the country to raise awareness of ALS and research to combat this disease. Players wore "4 ALS" patches on their uniforms.
ALS is a progressive nervous system disorder that gradually destroys the nerves responsible for muscle movement. The cause of ALS is unknown and there is currently no cure although medications, therapy and support are available. Walking, balance and swallowing are all challenges for patients, but the BIDMC and Red Sox staffs worked together to ensure accommodations and food selections were just right.
Eileen Garry, daughter of patient Claire Garry reported that, "My mother had a wonderful time and enjoyed not only the game and the generous feast, but also the ability to network with others being treated at BIDMC for ALS. This was an awesome day, one which will lead to more awareness, research and ultimately an end to this horrid disease." An additional treat, Claire Garry's grandsons were able to attend the game with her.
One attendee was given a bat signed by Sox Shortstop Julio Lugo, which the patient clung to throughout the game, sitting in a wheelchair and grinning from ear to ear. Sox management, the two World Series Trophies and Wally the Green Monster all visited and posed with patients and guests. Also in attendance was Walter Bentson, BIDMC overseer and a patient with a neurologic disease similar to ALS. A tireless advocate and fund-raiser for ALS research, Bentson is also a top amateur baseball umpire who is involved in leading Boston's renowned Park League, the oldest amateur baseball league in the United States.