Sunday 5 July, 2020

Jamaican footballer diagnosed with life-threatening disease

Former Jamaican national striker Luton Shelton is clinging to hope that he can survive Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease,  a cruel illness that causes the motor neurons inside your spinal cord to die. 

Due to the illness, over time one's muscles degenerate and one becomes a prisoner in one's own body — progressively losing the ability to move, speak, swallow and, eventually, breathe. 

The 32-year-old Shelton was recently diagnosed with the cruel illness, 19 months after he got injured while representing Harbour View Football Club in a Red Stripe Premier League game against Tivoli Gardens at the National Stadium.

That game, which took place on February 21, 2017, was the last football match for Shelton, who has been fighting to recover from injury since.

Harbour View Football Club General Manager Clyde Jureidini told Loop News that Shelton was diagnosed with the life-threatening disease while doing medical tests in an attempt to solve his injury problems.

"He has been having injuries that not getting better," said Jureidini.

Jureidini said the disease has left the family of Shelton very depressed.

He further revealed that Shelton departed the country today (Thursday) at 12:30 pm with his wife for medical attention, hoping to beat the cruel disease.

Only one man, Ted Harada, in recorded medical history ever recovered from ALS.

When Ted was diagnosed in 2010 by Jonathan Glass, a doctor at the Emory ALS Center, he was deteriorating quickly. He could walk only short distances with the help of a cane. Simple tasks, such as getting the mail or walking up the stairs to put his kids to bed, had become impossible for him.

But two years later, on October 20, 2012, Ted completed Atlanta’s two-and-a-half-mile Walk to Defeat ALS with no difficulty. In fact, Ted completed the ALS walk four years in a row. He ditched his cane and was able once again to play with his kids in the pool and walk up the stairs to tuck them in for bed.

What saved Ted was an experimental ALS treatment pioneered by doctors at the Emory ALS Center, in which doctors opened his spinal cord and injected neural stem cells directly into diseased areas, where the pools of motor neurons affected by ALS are found. The hope was that the surgically implanted cells would fix or replace the damaged ones and that this would slow or stop the degeneration of the motor neurons.

Before surgery, Ted was told the treatment would not help him. He was part of a Phase I safety trial, whose sole purpose was to prove the procedure would not kill him. But to his doctors’ surprise, not only did the procedure not kill him, it also reversed his ALS symptoms.

The results were so shocking, so unprecedented, that Glass actually went back to reconfirm that Ted even had ALS. He did. Ted died in 2016.

Shelton made his international debut for Jamaica in 2004, and earned 75 caps, scoring a record 35 goals and playing at three CONCACAF Gold Cups.

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