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Updated Feb 5, 2014 - 6:30 am

ALS center opens at Barrow Neurological Institute

PHOENIX -- The Valley is home to a new clinic to help people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

ALS is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The Hall of Fame Baseball great died of the disease a few years after retiring from baseball in 1939.

"ALS is a disease that essentially causes progressive weakness in the arms and legs, as well as in the breathing muscles and swallowing muscles," said Shafeeq Ladha, director of the Gregory W. Fulton ALS and Neuromuscular Disorders Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

"We don't really know what causes ALS, and we really don't have any treatment for it, but it results in death after about two to three years because of involvement of the respiratory and swallowing muscles," Ladha said.

The new $4 million center has been open for about a month. It is named after Gregory W. Fulton, who died of ALS in 2011. Fulton was in his early 50s, and Ladha said that ALS usually attacks people around that age. Fulton's parents, Ira A. and Mary Lou Fulton, donated $2.7 million to help build the 32,000 square foot center. The facility is designed to help provide treatment for as many as 300 patients of ALS and other neuromuscular diseases.

It took four years to build the center, but Ladha said building the facility is only the beginning.

"The clinic itself right now is a building, but we want it to be filled with programs and activities that really serve these patients and work towards finding a treatment."

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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