ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a disease that affects the nerve cells that make muscles work in both the upper and lower parts of the body, eventually the nerve cells stop working and die. It is most common in men between the ages of 55 to 60.
May is ALS awareness month and a special young man from Brownsville has made the community more aware of the disease.
“My name is Joseph Garza and I have ALS,” Garza said in a video taken two years ago. He was 14 years old when he was diagnosed with ALS, his family said he is the only known child with the disease in Texas.
“Joseph is a kind loving 16-year-old boy who unfortunately was diagnosed with this disease,” Martha de la Garza told News Center 23 at Joseph’s Confirmation at Holy Family Church in Brownsville.
“Prior to being diagnosed, he was a loving, caring, running around kind of kid. He enjoyed life, enjoyed family and now he is bedridden and unable to move speak it’s devastating,” de la Garza, Joseph’s aunt said.
She was one of the speakers at his Confirmation to the Catholic Church on May 8.
“It was important for [the family] for him to be confirmed, just like any other child; he’s graduated and now he’s confirming,” she said, adding that Joseph is committed to his faith.
“This is a step to be ready, so when he’s ready, God will accept him with open arms, he’s a wonderful kid,” de la Garza said.
Family, friends and community members who follow Joseph’s journey through his Facebook page attended the ceremony. “The community has really rallied around us and we are very appreciative of this, so thank you everyone,” she said.
Joseph also took communion for the first time. “We wanted to do this so the world can see that even though he’s got this terrible disease and his family is heartbroken… We try to make things possible for him so that he’s able to experience what other kids can do to,” she said.
The family asked the community to pray for them.
According to The Center for Disease Control’s website 12,000-15,000 people have ALS. Those affected by the disease communicate with Joseph and his family through social media by sending each other words of encouragement.