Local man defies odds as he battles ALS

Healthbeat

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) —  As many as 30,000 Americans suffer from the progressive, neurodegenerative disease ALS, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

A Northeastern Pennsylvania man is among those living with ALS which weakens muscles and impacts physical function.

Most people with ALS live just a few years after diagnosis. But a Scranton man who has well exceeded those expectations is sharing his struggle to help others in the fight against this mysterious disease.

The device Paul Miller is using is called a cough assist. It helps clear his lungs from respiratory issues caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS for short.

“There’s so many things that go wrong with ALS. It’s really horrible, torturous disease,” said Paul Miller.

Miller was diagnosed in 2012 with ALS which makes many things difficult that most of us take for granted like walking, speaking, and swallowing.

To give him the energy he needs to face another day, Miller uses a Trilogy non-invasive breathing machine which provides him a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

And he’ll do daily stretches to keep his weakening muscles elongated and stave off decline as much as possible.

ALS has no known cure and typically takes the life of a patient two to five years after diagnosis. But Miller has managed to survive the debilitating disease for nine years and counting. What’s his secret?

“No doubt, his positivity and his attitude. When he gets depressed, I notice and this is absolutely true when he gets down and depressed, the ALS moves on him,” explained Eileen Miller, Paul’s wife.

To help stay positive, the 65-year-old Miller relies on a personal strategy: do one little thing a day.

Some accomplishments are bigger than others. He is still able to use his riding lawn mower and cut his lawn. He shared his video with several ALS online sites.

“Once the people see that I’m still living after nine years, it gives them hope and not depression,” said Miller.

Not giving into depression is a fight the Millers have faced ever since their 21-year-old son, Paul, was killed in 2010 by a distracted driver.

“Life is not easy for us. It hasn’t been since, you know, our son passed away and then, you know, shortly after within two years he was diagnosed. And we sit back and but we’re together. We’re a team,” stated Eileen.

The Millers have made it their life’s mission to make a difference in other people’s lives.

“My favorite thing to do is we go out for dinner and I see a family with three kids, I’ll buy them dinner. I’ll grab their waitress and say ‘I want to pay their bill’. That gives me so much joy,” explained Miller.

So does their advocacy work to help all people with ALS whether it’s lobbying lawmakers for greater funding of research and treatment or speaking to medical and therapy students to prepare them to care for ALS patients.

The Millers were just bestowed the ALS Greater Philadelphia Chapter Flame of Hope award for their advocacy.

Paul Miller embodies a quote from inventor Thomas Edison: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Miller celebrated his 65th birthday on Wednesday.

Click here for a list of websites to connect you with more information and helpful resources.

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