ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Breaking a record, fighting for hope.
That's the task at hand for six Ann Arbor women who are training to swim a 42 mile relay across the English Channel at the same time as the Olympics in July. Bethany Williston explains the group came together to raise money, awareness and a slim ray of hope to find a medical way to ease the suffering of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a death sentence. It's just that's simple. The ALS Association describes it as a, "progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord."
In simple terms, the body slowly becomes paralyzed, and not just the limbs but involuntary muscles like the ones used to breathe. The victim simply begins to freeze, suffocating in their own paralysis.
There is no cure and no treatment, But there is hope of finding hope right here in Ann Arbor where researchers are using stem cell research to find something, anything to relieve suffering, find a treatment or find a cure.
Interestingly enough as these wives, mothers and new comrades of the channel swim their relay, they'll face freezing water, swift currents, ships, barges and jellyfish. Luckily no sharks. But the swim can be so difficult and so painful it actually can mimic ALS by freezing the swimmers, paralyzing them with exhaustion and shutting them down. To make matters worst, one of the six has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and had to begin immediate chemotherapy. Amanda Mercer is still in it for the long haul and is training between chemo treatments.
So who are these modern day Super women?
Susan Butcher, who works as an athletic trainer at Canton High School. Melissa Karjala, who's working on her teacher's certification. Jenny Jalet, a mother of two who works in the UofM athletic department. Bethany Williston, a mom of 3 and swim coach for both kids and adults for the City of Ann Arbor . The captain of the team is Amanda Mercer, also a mom who's splitting her time between training and chemotherapy. And Emily Kreger, a first year resident at Detroit Medical Center.
The women in the Channel are fighting for those who can't fight for themselves and by doing so are also going for a world record currently held by a team from Mexico of 18 hours and 59 minutes.
If you'd like to follow them on twitter or support them, here's the link to their website. http://www.channelforals.org/