ANF News Express

AANEM Foundation News Express

Orlando Houston: “I May Have ALS, but ALS Doesn’t Have Me!”

In October 2018, Orlando Houston was unprepared for what he was about to hear from his doctor. 

“He said ‘It appears you have ALS,’” recalled Orlando. 

In March 2018, Orlando started having muscle spasms and cramps. Additionally, he developed right foot drop, was having balance issues, and falling a lot. 

“The muscle twitching and falling is what had me concerned,” Orlando said. 

After several doctor’s visits, MRIs, EMGs, and blood work, his doctor suspected ALS, but he still wanted Orlando to see a neuromuscular specialist in Oklahoma City – AANEM member, Dr. Brent Beson – for confirmation. After further testing, Dr. Beson concurred with the original diagnosis – Orlando had ALS. 

“I just thought that this can’t be real. I was sitting there in disbelief with my wife by my side. We went outside and prayed.”

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the famous baseball player who died of ALS. As explained on the AANEM website, ALS is a motor neuron disease that destroys the nerve cells responsible for carrying signals from the brain to the muscles. 

Up until just recently, Orlando was working as a certified nursing assistant and home health aide. He and his wife of 23 years, Lisa, both cared for people with mental and physical disabilities as well as those with various illnesses. Because Orlando kept falling at work, he decided he could no longer work safely. He is now receiving Supplemental Security Income, which is designed to help disabled people, who have little to no income, meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. 

Orlando says the 16 years he and his wife spent in the medical field has prepared them for the journey ahead. 
“When we visited with Dr. Beson, he told us our positive attitude and medical knowledge would be helpful in extending my life span,” noted Orlando. 

When explaining ALS to his friends and family, Orlando says he has a disease that kills his nerves.

“I tell people that I may eventually need to use a wheelchair, have a gastrostomy tube and need help with breathing. At some point, I will depend on total care,” he said. 

To help with the spasms and pain, Orlando takes a number of medications: Baclofen, Meloxicam, Riluzole, Hydrocodone. However, he is thankful that at this point, his ALS has not limited him from participating in his favorite activities: preaching and writing. 

“I know I will know more about this disease as time goes by. I believe my most effective treatment is my faith in my Lord and Savior,” Orlando said. 

In some ways, Orlando says ALS has had a positive impact. 

“It has me looking at what is important in my life and has me grateful for the things I can still do … for there are several things I can no longer do. It has me reevaluating my relationships and realizing I have more friends than I thought I had.”  

Orlando and Lisa have 3 daughters and one granddaughter. He says their support has been amazing.

“My work, family, friends, and church have poured out unimaginable support and prayers. I know for certain they are all here fighting this battle with me.”

Orlando is sharing his ALS story publicly because he “wants people to see that you can have peace and faith in life no matter what you may face.” 

He believes that researchers will find a cure for ALS someday, but to find it, continued scientific research is needed. 

“The cure is out there,” Orlando said. “We have people willing to do the research, we just need people willing to help support this research. As long as we continue to seek, we will soon find the missing key!” 

Orlando says he doesn’t want the world to be sad for him. 

“I am going to do what I love to do for as long as I am alive. I may have ALS, but ALS doesn’t have me!” 

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