Updated: November 12, 2019 06:13 AM
Created: November 11, 2019 09:18 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — According to the ALS Association, every day an average of 15 people are diagnosed with a disease that targets the nervous system and weakens muscles that leaves people unable to move like they once did.
The disease is called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS.
The ALS Association's website states that ALS is twice as likely to occur in military veterans as others. A link between ALS and veterans has not been made, so a local U.S. Navy Veteran wants to raise awareness.
Yvette Wilson is a 40-year-old mother who joined the military straight out of high school when she was 18.
"It just gave you a satisfaction at the end of the day that you did something," Wilson said. "You served your country and you were willing to do that."
Now, Wilson needs a wheelchair to get from one place to another.
"Just a little over four years ago, I started experiencing some problems," she said. "My feet were getting a little bit heavy. They were dragging, and I started feeling like I was walking in mud. That's the best explanation I can give you."
After several doctor visits and tests, Wilson was diagnosed with ALS.
"I was afraid I wasn't gonna have any blood left by the time they were done," she said.
Wilson said she was relieved to finally know what was wrong, but she was also scared because most people have a few years to live after being diagnosed.
"I think I'm scared though, to leave my children," she said. "I've come to terms with my disease. It's not something I wished I had, and it's not something I wish anybody to have."
Wilson had a feeding tube to help her eat, and she is currently using a ventilator. She lost movement in her legs and feels her arms becoming weaker. Wilson believes in about a year, she will lose her voice.
For now, she has been recording her voice and favorite songs to pick from an eye-operating tool that will allow her to communicate with others.
Wilson wants others, especially veterans, to listen to their bodies and follow up with doctors to make sure they receive help early. ALS is not curable, but there are options to try to give people diagnosed a little more time to live.
Wilson said most cases affect men, but she would like for women to be aware of the disease as well.
"Not many people think about women, let alone veterans that are women that have ALS," she said. "And we're growing in numbers."
Wilson is active in the ALS community. She works to raise awareness and funds to help further research for a cure.
She started the team "The Holy Walkamolies" that participate in the Walk to Defeat ALS.
To learn more about ALS, click here.
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