‘It fills me with hope’: VCU patient with ALS first in Virginia to get new treatment

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Three patients at VCU Medical Center suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease are the first people in the state to get a brand new treatment that was approved by the FDA earlier this year.

Jerry Creehan sat with his wife of 40 years, Mary — a nurse at VCU — cracking a smile as he told 8News how he got there. Last year, Creehan started getting cramps in his feet. He went to the doctor, but the problem only worsened.

“Then I started falling to the ground, and when I couldn’t get up from those falls is when I really realized that I need to see someone more in tune with this kind of a problem,” Creehan explained.

Creehan went to VCU Medical Center where, after a series of tests, was told he had ‘ALS,’ also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a disease Creehan said he knew nothing about.

Lou Gehrig said that ‘I was the luckiest man alive,’ beyond that I had nothing, I had no idea,” Creehan said.

The disease attacks and kills nerve cells, causing muscles to weaken, eventually leading to paralysis and giving patients a life expectancy of 2-5 years.

But earlier this year, the FDA approved Radicava, the first new treatment for ALS in over 20 years. Creehan now is one of three patients to be the first treated with it in Virginia.

“This is a big step,” ALS Clinic Director Dr. Scott Vota said.

Dr. Votta said the treatment can slow the disease down by 33 percent, giving doctors a better understanding of the rare disorder while giving patients and extra year to 18 months of life.

“It’s going to help them walk longer, it’s going to help them be able to eat for longer periods of time, engage with their friends and family,” Dr. Vota explained.

“The idea that it’s going to slow the progression of this thing down, perhaps even to a point where someone else is going to find a cure, that’s just awesome and so it fills me with hope,” Creehad added. “It gives me much more time with my lovely wife. Like Lou Gehrig said, I am the luckiest man alive.”

Lou Gehrig’s Disease affects between 12,000-15,000 Americans. Doctors at VCU are working to get the medication to more patients across the state.

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