Actor Sandra Bullock’s longtime partner Bryan Randall passed away aged 57 after a three-year battle with ALS, according to a statement from his family provided to US-based People magazine. It further shared that Bryan lost the battle with the condition peacefully on August 5.
“Bryan made the decision early on to keep his ALS journey private, and those of us who cared for him tried our best to comply with his wishes,” the statement read. “We are immensely grateful to the tireless doctors who navigated the landscape of this illness with us and to the astounding nurses who became our roommates, often sacrificing their own families to be with ours.”
The statement concluded with his family seeking privacy “to grieve and to come to terms with the impossibility of saying goodbye to Bryan”.
What is ALS?
Dr Pavan Pai, consultant, interventional neurology, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road shared that Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. “It primarily leads to the degeneration of motor neurons, which are responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movements,” he said.
The exact cause of ALS remains largely unknown, the expert said. ” In some cases, it can be hereditary, with a family history of the disease. About 5-10 per cent of ALS cases are linked to specific gene mutations. Other cases are sporadic, occurring without any known family history. Some potential contributing factors include oxidative stress, inflammation, and abnormalities in protein handling within nerve cells,” Dr Pai added.
The symptoms of ALS can vary but commonly include muscle weakness, twitching, and difficulty in speaking, swallowing, and breathing.
“As the disease progresses, individuals may experience increasing challenges in their motor functions, eventually leading to paralysis and severe disability,” Dr Pai said.
Dr K Sai Satish, consultant neurologist and epileptologist, Yashoda Hospitals, Secunderabad added that the symptoms depend on which group of muscles are affected. “For example, difficulty swallowing and change in voice are presenting features if throat muscles are affected. Similarly, weakness of hands and legs and breathing difficulty is seen in people with ALS affecting arm, leg and breathing muscles respectively. It is important to note that except for weakness, ALS doesn’t affect the sensation, intelligence, or consciousness of a person. ALS per se doesn’t kill a person, but can cause significant morbidity.”
How to manage?
According to the expert, there is no cure for ALS currently but various management strategies can help improve the quality of life for individuals with the disease. These include:
Medications: Certain medications can help manage symptoms and slow down disease progression. These may include Riluzole and Edaravone.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy and rehabilitation can help maintain muscle strength and mobility, improving overall functional capacity.
Assistive Devices: As the disease progresses, individuals may require assistive devices such as wheelchairs, communication devices, and breathing support.
Speech Therapy: Speech therapy can help individuals maintain communication abilities as muscle weakness affects speech and swallowing.
Nutritional Support: Proper nutrition is crucial. Some individuals with ALS may require a modified diet or feeding tubes to ensure adequate nutrition and hydration.
Respiratory Care: As ALS affects breathing muscles, respiratory support, and interventions may become necessary to manage breathing difficulties.
Support Groups: Participating in support groups can provide emotional and psychological support for individuals with ALS and their caregivers.
Research and Clinical Trials: Ongoing research into the causes and potential treatments for ALS provides hope for future advancements in managing the disease.
“It’s important for individuals diagnosed with ALS to work closely with a multidisciplinary healthcare team, including neurologists, physical therapists, speech therapists, and other specialists, to develop a comprehensive management plan tailored to their specific needs,” Dr Pai concluded.