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Neil Alexander’83 Returns to Academy, Discusses Life with ALS

Very rarely, if ever, is there any type of positive associated with ALS, commonly know as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The untreatable degenerative disease, which afflicts roughly 5,000 people per year, leaves its victims with no hope and a very short time span.

When Neil Alexander’81 was diagnosed, his doctor recommended that the best course of action was to “do what you love.” As most people, Alexander was crushed when he learned his diagnosis. Unlike almost anyone else, however, he decided he could not simply let the disease take hold of him and decided to wage war with a disease for which there has not been a medical breakthrough in the last 150 years.

For Alexander, inaction was never an option. As he said, “I’ve never been the smartest guy in the room, but I’ve always been able to get things done.” Learning about ALS, Alexander was initially overcome by despair and continues to fight to sustain himself emotionally, but he has been very grateful for his family and the resources he has to cope with his disease. For that reason, Alexander and his wife, Suzanne, set up to fight ALS. Its mission is threefold: to educate the public about ALS, to provide funds to those less fortunate for patient care, and to fund research in the hope of a breakthrough.

Alexander is committed to his foundation and remains hopeful that there may be a breakthrough somewhere around the corner. For now, he continues to “put on a suit and tie and go to work everyday.” The hardest part about ALS, however, is that in some arbitrary period of time his muscles will atrophy and his body will fail, all while his cerebral function remains entirely intact.

The struggle Alexander is waging is, for that reason, so couageous. He knows, with almost 100% certainty, that ALS has claimed his life. He does not know how many weeks or months more he will have function in his muscles. He does not know how many months or years remain in his life. Through this is despair he wakes up every morning, Alexander stares his disease in the eyes, works to make himself on of the last people to know the horrors of ALS, and helps those like him already afflicted.

We are lucky to have heroes like Neil Alexander in this world. We are blessed to have people who look out into the abyss with courage and determination. We at Academy are pained yet tremendously proud to watch the dignity with which one of our own faces the inevitable and combats a disease yet unconquerable.

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Written by Harry Wexner’13



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