Man behind ALS Ice Bucket Challenge hospitalized

Pete Frates, who inspired people around the world to dump buckets of ice over their heads to raise money for Lou Gehrig's disease, was in a Boston hospital Monday battling the debilitating disorder.

Frates, 32, was diagnosed five years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — ALS, the disease that killed Yankees baseball great Lou Gehrig.

"Pete's family wants everyone to know that Pete is resting comfortably at MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) as the Doctors, medicine, prayers and love continue to help him get stronger," the family said on a Team Frate Train Facebook post Monday. "Thank you for all your concern."

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became a social media megastar in 2014. People would challenge friends and colleagues to "take the challenge" and have a bucket of ice water dumped over their heads. The videos were posted on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

The stipulation was that you either took the challenge or donated money to an ALS charity, although many people did both. The campaign thrust the disease and the effort to cure it into the national spotlight.

More than $200 million was raised, and the ALS Association credits the effort with helping fund research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School that resulted in discovery of a gene that now ranks high among the most common genetic factors associated with ALS.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University also credit the effort with funding their high-risk, high-reward research approach to ALS research.

ALS breaks down nerve cells, weakens muscles and impairs basic functions. Drugs can slow progression of the disease and ease symptoms, but scientists don't know the cause and there is no cure. Respiratory failure is a common cause of death for ALS patients.

In May the FDA approved a new drug to slow the degenerating effects of ALS expected to be available by August.

Steve Gleason, who played pro football for eight seasons before retiring in 2008, revealed in 2011 that he had ALS. His victories and his struggles were chronicled in the 2016 documentary Gleason.
 

Frates played baseball at Boston College before playing and coaching in Germany. He was 27 when he was diagnosed, and about a year later married his wife, Julie. Their daughter, Lucy, was born in 2014. The family continues to take an active role in raising awareness and funds for ALS research.

Frates is on a ventilator and can't speak. On Monday, the family also posted from the hospital, saying Frates is "battling this beast ALS like a Superhero."

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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