Smile Conquers Disease

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A young lanky man with a waddling gait came to our clinic. He was referred to me for consultation because of shortness of breath.

When I walked into the examination room, I can’t help but noticed the smile this young man had in his face. What was he happy about? As I flipped through the thick old medical records that he brought, my heart sank when I read his diagnosis. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

He is just 25 years old.

After getting his history and examining him I asked him if he is married. He answered yes. I asked further if he has any children. His smile beamed more brightly and he answered proudly, “She’s 8 months old”.

As I tried to hide my sadness, I told him that his shortness of breath was due to his worsening muscle weakness and that his test already showed significant reduction in his breathing capacity. His countenance did not change. His smile never left his face.

Does he know that in a few months he will be struggling more and more to walk? Or talk? Or even just taking simple breath? Does he know that what he has is a fatal disease, and more likely he will not see his daughter enter pre-school?

Apparently he does. And he is at peace with that. The disease may have conquered his body, but not his spirit.

What does he know that I don’t, that kept him smiling despite his given circumstances? I’ll ask him when I see him back in his next visit……..if there’s a next visit.

smile in the sky


    1. Since all ALS patients succumb due to respiratory failure, most of them are referred to us by their neurologists. For a number of ALS patients that I have taken care of, I can say that most of them live with a purpose rather than wallowing in self-pity. This shows triumph of human spirit even over a fatal disease.

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