Survival story of 76 year old ALS patient Stephen Hawking
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Survival story of 76 year old ALS patient Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, an author, renowned physicist, cosmologist and an ALS survivor recently celebrated his 76th birthday beating the neurodegenerative disease after the initial diagnosis at a young age of 21 years.

ALS is a progressive disease that affects the motor nerves residing in the brain. The focus group for the disease is mostly centered between the age 40 and 70. Each year more than 5000 new cases of ALS are seen with more than 30,000 in the U.S. itself. In the year 1963, this 21-year-old man was given two years by his doctor post-diagnosis with ALS. However, the physicist beat the odds by not one or two but more than 50 years added to his timeline even after the initial diagnosis. For patients suffering from ALS, the maximum survival limit after diagnosis is just three years. Only 20 percent of the total make it to the five years mark, while a mere ten percent make it to the 10 years timeline.

The survival story of Dr. Hawking is remarkable. Under normal circumstances, the patient dies as his motor functions deteriorate causing respiratory functions being disabled or malnutrition along with dehydration which is caused because the patient is unable to swallow his food. Instead, Hawking made it to his late 70s mostly due to better health care system. According to Leo McCluskey, a medical director of the ALS Center at the University of Pennsylvania and associate professor of neurology, Hawking’s genetic structure might also play a key role for this long-lasting survival which was something extraordinary in the field of science.

Medicines designed to prolong the life-line of ALS patient are helpful only for a time-period of six months and beyond that, the patient succumbs to the effects of the disease. ALS is an incurable disease in spite of which Hawking made it this far. Scientists also speculate that age at which the physicist was diagnosed could also play a major role in the longevity.

Hawking has been inspiring budding science enthusiasts with his passion for the subject and his will to push through the hardships of life. Even after the disease took away his ability to walk or talk, his wheelchair and computer have been his way of communication to bring out his accomplishments out to the world. Apart from a physicist, Hawking is also a great writer with the renowned book, “A Brief History of Time” penned down by him in the 20the century which included everything in the vast space including black holes and big bang theory.