Former Saints player Steve Gleason starts ALS awareness campaign
Former Saints safety and special teams ace Steve Gleason isn’t about to suffer in silence, despite being diagnosed with the fatal disease ALS two years ago.
“I believe that because ALS is under-funded and under-resourced many ALS patients end up fading away quietly and dying,” Gleason said Wednesday at a news conference. “For me, this was not okay. I did not want to fade away quietly.”
Gleason was joined by former Saints teammate Scott Fujita, who had an uncle die from ALS several years ago and is now advocating for more research to find a cure for the disease.
Gleason unveiled a public service announcement video on ALS awareness that features several current NFL players, including Fujita, Drew Brees, Jonathan Vilma and Joe Flacco, as well as coach Mike McCarthy.
Gleason can no longer speak and uses a computer that is attached to his computer. He types words by looking at letters and spelling out words. The computer reads back what he says upon his command.
Gleason House, a home where ALS patients can help live productive lives despite their illness, was recently started in the New Orleans area. And Gleason hopes to have more places constructed around the country. He plans to meet later this week with former Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2007. Brigance is also unable to speak.
“It will allow them to be productive and live with purpose,” Gleason said of his facility, adding that technology can help people stricken with ALS continue to do their jobs.
Chase announced that it is donating $350,000 to fund the high-tech residential facility.