A new documentary tells the harrowing and inspirational tale of Steve Gleason, once a professional NFL defensive back for the New Orleans Saints who was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease, ALS, at the age of 34, and given a life expectancy of two to five years.
Gleason rose to as he was credited with kick-starting the beginning of a huge comeback for the New Orleans Saints, a once struggling football team, something the city desperately needed. However, Gleason and his family suffered a great shock when in his prime he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The documentary, which has won several awards in film festivals this year, tells Gleason’s inspiring story this far and provides a backstory, of his career and the dramatic changes in his life as he tries to deal with the deterioration of his bodily functions. While this could easily be a sad story it the documentary aims to feel uplifting as the former athlete uses his strength to rise to the challenge and refuses to let the disease dictate his life. Most importantly he does not let it stop him starting a family.
Part of the movie centers around a video journal, which Gleason and his wife create, for their son River, who was born in 2011. It also shows Gleason’s determination in getting his relationships in order, building a foundation to provide other ALS patients with purpose, and utilizing medical technologies on offer.
Gleason is not the only Irish American who has raised awareness of ALS in recent years. In 2014 Pat Quinn was among those who established the Ice Bucket Challenge which went viral on social media and raised $220 million for the cause.
Quinn was just 32 when he was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. Following his own diagnosis, he found a friend in Pete Frates, a fellow ALS patient and standout college athlete, who had a network of contacts in Boston. Together, they came up with the concept of people recording themselves being drenched in ice water to raise money for ALS research.
Gleason’s documentary will be on release in selected theaters from July 29. For more visit www. gleasonmovie.com.
Here’s another short documentary on Gleason’s story: