Dumping a bucket of water on your head…
Actually it’s not a novelty to answer a challenge by either paying $100 or dumping a bucketful of water on your head. In addition, it is not even related to ALS.
Initially, some American sportsmen started this tradition with an ice bucket. When the 29-year-old baseball player Pete Frates was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, he turned this ice tradition into an awareness campaign.
The campaign rapidly spread this summer. I guess the participation of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, to the challenge had a worldwide effect. It quickly became a trend in Turkey, even my 11-year-old son asked for my permission before tipping a bucketful of ice on his head. But we are facing a magazine event. The challenge is done as if it’s for fun, everyone challenges people they want and share their videos, etc… I had not seen any information on where to donate to ALS until Mehmet Yılmaz’s article. (The readers who want to donate Money to ALS can use TR 320001001672113640835001 IBAN number to donate money.) ALS, on the other hand, is not a disease that should be mocked. Another term for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is Lou Gehrig’s disease. Born in 1903, Gehrig, an important baseball player, was diagnosed with the disease in 1938 when he was 35-years-old and died in 1941. The disease has been known by his name since then, but one of the most famous people who are currently suffering from ALS is Stephen Hawking. Suna Kıraç, the shareholder and CEO of Koç holding and a prominent figure in Turkey, also suffers from ALS. (Mao Zedong also died from ALS.)
I do not know how much money the ALS foundation in Turkey has been able to gather through this ice bucket “competition,” but the number is evident in the U.S., simply because America is a transparent country. Thanks to the ice bucket campaign, donations in the U.S. rose from $22,000 to $13.5 million. (I hope donations are made in Turkey.)
It is, of course, rude to ask or tell the numbers that are being donated, but in Turkey donations by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation (SVİKV) for the research and cure of ALS surpasses the amount donated by tens of sportsmen, actors and celebrities in the U.S. I’m not only speaking of monetary donations, but also meaningful contributions, such as the neurodegenerative research laboratory that was donated by SVİKV to Boğaziçi University.
What is this disease?
Your brain is the boss of your body by all means. The reason your body does countless actions from breathing to swallowing, from walking to holding something in your hands, with ease, is due to motor neurons. For a reason, still unknown to us, these neurons begin to degenerate and cease to function.
There are five motor neuron diseases related to these degenerations and ALS is one of them. When your motor neurons stop functioning, you become unable to breathe, walk and use your muscles. For example, Suna Kıraç can only move her eyes, just like Stephen Hawking. This brain disease does not affect the traits affiliated to the brain, such as thinking, memorizing and self-awareness. So you become an inanimate, but conscious creature. A brain trapped inside its body. A horrible disease.
Are stem cells the solution?
Unfortunately, ALS, like other motor neuron diseases, is not curable. The spreading speed of the disease also differs from person-to-person. The footballer, Sedat Balkanlı, who suffered from ALS, melted in front of our eyes. Drugs slow down the spread of the disease, but they do not cure it. The recent progress in stem cell research can help to cure motor neuron and spinal injuries. For this reason, SVİKV established a laboratory that works on stem cell research.
If stem cells can be made to replicate or regenerate the dead motor neurons, it would be possible to cure Alzheimer’s, ALS and other similar diseases.