The fight against ALS

By WEEK Reporter

May 31, 2014 Updated Jun 2, 2014 at 10:09 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease is a progressive neurological disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis and ultimately respiratory failure.

More than 30,000 people in the U.S. are living with ALS. Every 90 minutes someone else is diagnosed.

Greg Underhill has been battling ALS for about a year and a half. But he isn't doing it alone.

Greg is an East Peoria Firefighter -- and even though he isn't out there fighting fires anymore, he's still a brother to everyone in the department.

"He's still a very big part of the fire department. He comes down for breakfast every once and awhile. And we try and stop at his house and drop in and say 'hi' from time to time. He's very much a part of the fire department still," said Drew Rubel with the East Peoria Fire Department

"They have just been like family. We couldn't have done this without them," said Greg's wife Penny Underhill. "Hitting home like this...it has really made a big impact because they all feel like family."

About 200 people came out Saturday to support those who have ALS -- there's about 115 ALS families right here in Central Illinois.

ALS is a disease that effects nerve cells, leading to paralysis of the muscles, including the muscles that allow you to breathe and swallow.

"Your brain is putting those sparks to make your muscles move -- they're actually frying. Those are sparkling a little too hot and you lose all movement," said Andie Savoree with the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

There isn't a cure for the disease and once diagnosed the average life expectancy is four months to two years. But that doesn't mean there isn't a fight.

More than $25,000 was raised as part of Peoria's ALS walk -- in the hopes of one day finding a cure.

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