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ALS sufferer has reason to smile after 17 years
Updated: 2015-04-03

Xie Jiquan smiled with difficulty as he was carried from a car at Fujian Provincial Hospital in Fuzhou on Thursday, his first hospital appointment in 17 years since being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

ALS sufferer has reason to smile after 17 years

A neurologist examines Xie Jiquan at the Fujian Provincial Hospital in Fuzhou, April 2. [Photo/Nhaidu.com]

The 50-year-old from a remote village in Luoyuan county has been confined to a wheelchair since losing almost all physical ability due to the disease, a rare neurological disorder which gradually causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body.

A charity campaign called the "Ice Bucket Challenge" has swept across the world since last year and successfully raised public awareness of patients suffering ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease after US baseball player Lou Gehrig.

Earlier this year, a newspaper in Fuzhou ran a story on Xie's family where three of seven brothers have suffered ALS and another two had died of cancer.

Media exposure has triggered a strong response from society, as visitors and donations keep pouring in for the financially-stretched family.

"It's been like a dream," Xie said, recalling the tremendous change in his life over the past several months. "Some people drove all the way from afar just to speak to me and encourage me. And the doctor called on day and said they can provide assistance. I can't still believe it".

"We are concerned about his situation knowing there are three ALS cases in the family. We've been dedicated to research and treatment of the disease for such a long time that we hope to check up on him and see if we can find the cause for the genetic disease," said Zhou Ruiling, a neurologist at the hospital.

Volunteers of a local charity organization in Luoyuan drove Xie to the hospital. To make him feel easier on the bumpy road during a five-hour journey, they put seats down to make a makeshift bed for him.

Zhou conducted a thorough examination of Xie and revealed that an expert panel would also convene in the next few days.

Despite the fact that the cause of ALS in most cases remains unknown, early diagnosis and treatment will help extend patients' lifespan, she said.

"I hope that at least my case can be of some use for other ALS patients," said Xie, with another smile.

Related reading: ALS patients get a warm greeting

ALS sufferer has reason to smile after 17 years

A female solider greets Xie Jiquan and his family at the Ziran village, Luoyuan county in Fujian province, Jan 15.  [Photo/Xinhua]