Friday, August 1, 2008

Lou Gehrig's Illness; Augie Nieto's Cure

“Here's the plan: An elaborate parachute jump with his wife, four children, even his faithful dog, Hazel, wearing goggles. Fitness guru Augie Nieto then will make a grand entrance into the Beverly Wilshire ballroom, trailing his parachute, for a gala expected to raise $1 million. Yes, $1 million! Nieto, of course, will need help – particularly landing since he can't move his arms, legs, hands or neck. He can barely talk; he must be fed through a stomach tube; and soon will need a machine to breathe. Still, Nieto makes a vow. To the untrained ear, each word sounds like a grunt. But his son, Austin, 22, understands and translates: "Oh, trust me," he says, ‘if I say I'll do it, I'll do it.’ It turns out the parachute team won't allow Nieto to jump from a plane. Which seems like a good call, given that Austin must steady his dad's neck while wheeling him over a simple threshold. Nieto says he can live without arms and legs. Without the ability to swallow food. Without the ability to breathe on his own. As long as he can communicate. ‘I am more proud of what I've done in the last 36 months,’ he says, ‘than of my 30-year career.’ The results of his research probably will not save his life, but may save others. New discoveries have already been made. Asked if Lou Gehrig's disease might someday be renamed Augie Nieto's disease, he is quick to dismiss the notion. ‘It's Lou Gehrig's disease,’ he says. ‘It's Augie Nieto's cure.’”

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