Highway engineer battles Lou Gehrig's Disease

ROCHESTER Even though he has lost the use of his hands, Jeff Dunlap still uses a computer in his job as resident engineer at the New York State Department of Transportation. Thats because his employers have provided him with a computer-generated speech recognition program, a hands-free optical mouse, and handicapped-accessible furniture to allow him to continue to work. Dunlap has had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) since 2005. Commonly referred to as Lou Gehrigs Diseasenamed after New York Yankees Hall of Fame home-run slugger Lou Gehrig who acquired the fatal illness in the late 1930sALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative muscular disease that usually has a survival rate of two to five years from the time of diagnosis. Although he depends on a wheelchair for mobility, Dunlap likes to remain busy in battling Lou Gehrigs Disease. The 54 year-old Rochester resident actively participates in The ALS Associations upstate New York chapters patient support group with his wife and caregiver Pam, 53. The Dunlaps wholeheartedly espouse our chapters support group meetings, said Christine Zippi, executive director of the chapter. They enthusiastically provide assistance to other patients living with ALS. The chapter has proclaimed the Dunlaps the family that best exemplifies the spirit of ALS Across America for the chapter during ALS Awareness Month in May. The ALS Across America national campaign recognizes courageous individuals with ALS and their caregivers who are role models to people with Lou Gehrigs Disease. These special individuals reflect the spirit of the organization as they make a positive difference in their community by expanding awareness of ALS and embodying the spirit of living life to the fullest. A positive outlook is the best therapy for coping with this disease, said Dunlap, father of four grown children. He also believes knowledge about ALS and his physical state empowers his wife and children in his having Lou Gehrigs Disease. It is important to me to keep my family abreast of all that I am dealing with physically, and I feel that information helps them deal with the disease. Throughout May, The Association and its nationwide network of 41 chapters will reach out to communities across the country to educate the public about Lou Gehrigs disease and urge people to join The Association in the fight to make ALS a disease of the past. The Associations National ALS Advocacy Day and Public Policy Conference, which has grown to be the single largest gathering of the ALS community, and is part of ALS Awareness Month, will be held this year on May 11-13 in Washington, D.C. The Dunlaps believe putting a face on the disease is one of the ways to get the recognition and awareness needed to support legislation to track and provide research to combat ALS. They have attended Advocacy Days in Albany, N.Y., and have visited local legislators in the Rochester area. They have also attended prior Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C., to tell their story along with other people with ALS and their caregivers from the upstate area. The more people that tell their stories, the more recognition and awareness is generated. It is important for me to show them the progression of this disease each year, Dunlap said.

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