ALS patient living life to the fullest

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On the back of his motorized wheelchair, 55-year-old Doug Clough proudly displays a yellow and white flag bearing his mantra: love life, live life.

Doug has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurological disease that causes degeneration of the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movements. Because Barrow’s Gregory W. Fulton ALS and Neuromuscular Disease Center integrates high quality care with cutting edge research, many patients like Doug are able to manage the symptoms of their diseases and live highly productive lives.

Since his diagnosis in April 2014, Doug has become an advocate for the ALS community. In recent months, he has began taking an active role in helping Barrow researchers learn more about this fatal disease. Doug joined Dr. Rita Sattler’s laboratory in September 2017 as a research volunteer.

Advocacy and giving back to the ALS community

He doesn’t have a professional science background, but the self-described “jack of all trades, master of none” hopes to free up time for the scientists by handling some of the more tedious but necessary work.

“Then they can use their energy and their efforts for stuff that their brains are designed to do,” he said.

Doug and Dr. Sattler work together to research ALS.

Volunteering in the lab is just one of many ways Doug has been active in the fight against ALS. He participates in a clinical trial at Barrow, he recruits family and friends to join him in the ALS Association’s annual Walk to Defeat ALS and he is an ambassador for the Northeast ALS Consortium.

He also spoke along with doctors and scientists at a press conference to announce a partnership in which Barrow and IBM Watson use artificial intelligence to expedite the process of identifying genes associated with ALS.

A dream for leaving his legacy

Doug is a father to three grown kids and eight grandchildren. He wants to leave a legacy of enjoying life to the fullest—a legacy he hopes his kids and grandkids will continue.

He believes his contributions to the ALS community and his positive attitude are extending his life. At the very least, Doug said helping people brings him joy in the time he has left.

“Own your life and have fun. Do what you want to do, because if you don’t, you’re short-changing yourself. I would say that not just for people who have ALS, but for everyone.”

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