BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Perhaps America’s best known ALS patient lives here in Baltimore.
Mike Schuh reports O.J. Brigance has helped to raise awareness, and now an executive with a company with Baltimore ties is putting millions into trying to cure the disease.
Seven years after helping the Ravens with their first Super Bowl, Brigance learned he has ALS.
He’s now a player development executive with the club.
“I am humbled when people say that I am an inspiration,” Brigance said. “It’s my belief that the same fight deep in my heart is available to everybody.”
His brain no longer controls his muscles.
Physically, he’s paralyzed. But his mentally is unchanged.
His struggle and his journey have inspired his team on their journey.
“O.J. Brigance said it. We’re the team of vision. We never took our eyes off the prize,” said Terrell Suggs, linebacker.
“This is for O.J.,” Coach John Harbaugh said while hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Some 5,600 people in the United States get ALS each year.
Brigance happens to live in one of the few places doing serious ALS research: the highly respected Robert Packard Center at Johns Hopkins.
“O.J. is a wonderful ambassador for ALS and has been an ambassador for the Packard Center for many years,” said Dr. Jeff Rothstein, Robert Packard Center for ALS Research.
As a high-profile ALS patient, Brigance has been able to raise awareness.
Now, the CEO at Bloomberg has given the center $25 million.
“So this is a very exciting initiative pioneered by Dan Doctoroff, president of Bloomberg,” Rothstein said.
His millions will allow researchers to better collaborate and develop therapies.
“Most of the ideas for new drug therapies come from us in academics, like those that make up the Packard Center at Johns Hopkins, and this initiative will really help us gather together, gather in a collaborative way, forces from Johns Hopkins, Columbia University and other centers from around the United States to come up with new therapeutic ideas,” Rothstein said.
Such therapy may come too late to help Brigance.
He’s already lived longer than most ALS patients.
But it could help those who are, right now, not even aware that this debilitating disease is in their future.
The money being given to Hopkins will help fund research.
Brigance’s foundation helps to fund the needs of individual ALS patients.